Thursday, February 22, 2007

Not Your Everyday Poison by John H. Dirckx

Okay, one of the stranger last names in the mystery world, but one of my favorite short story writers. Not Your Everyday Poison in the current Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, is another fine story about Detective Cyrus Auburn, though I do have a quibble about it as I'll explain.

First, the story starts at a seedy flea market, introducing us, off-stage, to a character who soon winds up dead, but was it natural causes or murder? An antique table that was supposed to be delivered to one of the flea market vendors plays a role as does a bottle of wine locked inside it since the death of it last owner seventeen years earlier. Was that person, the table owner, also murdered though his death was ruled of natural causes? Cyrus Auburn is not the type of detective to give up on a case just because it's shrouded in antiquity and the potential victim was cremated. Instead, he tracks faint leads, does his library research, visits the hall of records, talks to potential witnesses and weighs all the evidence. in short, he does everything to make you hope you get a detective like this working your case when you get murdered...

Like all his stories, Dirckx deploys crisp prose and a sense of humor and draws Auburn as a sympathetic and intelligent detective. All of the short stories in the series are a pleasures. One hopes that Dirckx will one day be able to quit his day job* to write an Auburn novel.

The quibble with this story is that there is one essential clue to figuring out the case that is withheld until the end. It's not held back long - Auburn learns about it on one page and reveals it a page or two later, but still, it bothered me a little. Not sure if that could have been fixed without making the story substantially longer. Otherwise, this story is definitely a winner.


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