Thursday, May 31, 2007

"The End of the World (As We Know It)" by Lise McClendon

From: Murder in Vegas ed. Michael Connelly. Forge, 2005.

At his sister Cynthia's request, former Army MP Aaron Nelson tags along to Vegas with his brother-in-law Herb. As the story opens, Aaron is unable to prevent Herb from losing "a couple thou" at the Crow Wing Casino. Leaving Herb to decide how best to break the news to Cynthia, Aaron later receives a call from a Vegas policeman telling him Herb is in the hospital.

When Cynthia phones him, Aaron expects her to be upset about the lost money. Instead she says she's calling to thank Herb for sending money. Similarly, just as Aaron expects he and Herb won't be able to pay their room bill at the Crow Wing, the casino comps their room. Aaron is more curious than ever just what is going on, but no one gives him a straight answer.

He does learn that Herb investigated the Crow Wing's owner on charges of fraudulent accounting, but their exact connection, where the money came from, and why the room was comped he never discovers. A disorienting story that nonetheless kept me reading until its open end.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Link to Story

In the course of our reviews, we occasionally provide the link to a story published online. In Classic Blogger, a post title was not clickable (that is, it did not link to anything) unless we filled in the Link field while composing a post. When we upgraded to the New Blogger, post titles linked back to the posts themselves by default, and readers couldn't tell when we'd provided the link to a story in the Link field.

I've done some re-coding so a post title will always link back to the post itself. If we provide the link to a story, you'll see "Link to Story" in a post's footer:

Posted by Steven at 10:27 PM 0 comments Link to Story Links to this post

Happy reading.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Births, Marriages, and Deaths by Aliya Whitely

In case you didn't know, Shred of Evidence is back in the business of publishing original crime fiction. This is after a year long hiatus, but teh story chosen to kickstart things is a good one. From the first sentence, the protagonist builds suspense and it all pays off in the end.

The bulk of the story is the memory a young lady retains of a man, Charlie, she worked with on her first summer job when she was thirteen and he was sixty years older. Charlie sets the rules for her employment at a bed and breakfast and some of those rules are a little strange. Charlie likes magazines and wants her to bring whatever she finds in the guest rooms. But what if one of the guests misses the magazine, you ask. Well, read the story, and you'll see exactly what happens.

The simmer that the author is able to maintain throughout the story is well worth the read. The character of Charlie, especially, is well drawn and memorable.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

"A Prisoner of Memory" by Robert S. Levinson

From: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2007

Aging movie star Laura Dane calls Neil Gulliver, the Hollywood-based investigative reporter from Levinson's Affair novels, to say she's being stalked. Gulliver visits Laura on the set of a movie in which her niece is starring. Laura seems genuinely frightened for her life, but after listening to her at length and questioning the man she suspects, Gulliver is pretty sure the stalker is a figment of her imagination.

Some time after he thinks the case resolved, Gulliver learns Laura has been murdered by the very man she suspected, a master of disguise still at large. A great open-ended twist on what could've been a typical story. Also, in an oddly upbeat turn, Gulliver notes that Laura's killer brought back her fame, assuring her what she lived for, to be remembered.

Monday, May 21, 2007

How to Survive Downsizing by J. Michlitsch

This little gem is to be found in the June 2007 edition of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. The story concerns Geoffrey Manning who has been fired from his job - downsized. The first hing he does with his box of belongings is, well, get drunk. Then, sitting on the curb, he notices a man carrying a woman into the woods across from him in the dead of night. Omnious. In the morning, there's a woman's shoe in his box of belongings.

Who was the woman? Who was the man? What has become of her? Geoff, having no luck with the want ads and nothing better to do, investigates. He find out some very interesting details about the couple and uses some unusual methods to get his information.

You might think that with Geoff being down on his luck, this could easily turn into a blackmail scheme, but it won't. Or you might fear that Geoff will simply misidentify the couple. That's not the route taken by the author either. In fact, I think the author's route was quite clever, and you do need to read to the end to figure it out. Well worth the reading.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dead as a Dog by Doug Allyn

Doug Allyn's stories have long been reader favorites, and Mr. Allyn has won his fair share of nominations and awards for them. This story is a prime example of why this is so. The story, found in the latest EQMM, is about a college professor whose wife happens to be dying. That there is a strong emotion going on here is an understatement. The way the husband talks about his wife, dying a painful cancer death after a too-short life of activity and purpose, nearly made me cry...twice.

On top of being in the middle of the painful process of losing the love of his life, the professor faces raising two small boys on his own. If this weren't bad enough (it isn't) he comes home one day to find that someone has murdered his dog - shot it through with an arrow and left it to die.

Well, what happens when this professor complains to the police and they turn something of a deaf ear. In fact, they even know who did it, but the prime suspect is wealthy and a town institution so he's far above the law. Well, what should the professor do? What lessons should he impart to his boys? What would you do?

I'm not sure about how the story ends. No knock intended here, there were a lot of potential paths to take - I'm not sure the one Mr. Allyn took was the one I would have. Still, the journey to the final destination was a prize on its own. Well worth the read.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"The Man in Bogota" by Amy Hempel

From: Reasons to Live by Amy Hempel, HarperCollins, 1985.

In six poignant paragraphs, the narrator of this story puts herself in the role of a crisis negotiator trying to talk a woman down from a ledge as TV news cameras roll. The narrator decides she would tell the woman about a man in Bogota, Colombia, a wealthy industrialist who was kidnapped and held for ransom.

This was not a TV drama, the narrator says. The man's wife needed three months to gather the money. The man had a heart condition and his kidnappers made him quit smoking and changed his diet to keep him alive. When he was released, his doctor found him in excellent health and said the kidnap was the best thing that could've happened to him.

Maybe it isn't a come-down-from-the-ledge story, the narrator concedes, but she hopes the woman will ask the same question the man in Bogota did: How do we know that what happens to us isn't good?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

NBS Special Report: 2007 Derringer Winners

As announced by Awards coordinator Jeanne Edna Thelwell:

FLASH STORY: "Vigilante" by Barry Ergang (Summer 2006, Mysterical-E)

SHORT-SHORT STORY - We have a tie:

"Four For Dinner" by John M. Floyd (Seven by Seven)


Elena Speaks of the City, Under Siege" by Steven Torres (September/October 2006, Crimespree Magazine)

MID-LENGTH STORY - "Cranked" by Bill Crider (Damn Near Dead: An Anthology of Geezer Noir)

LONGER SHORT STORY - "Strictly Business" by Julie Hyzy (These Guns for Hire)

Congratulations, Steven, Bill, Barry, John, and Julie.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Male Ducks are Drake, Females are Hens by John Weagly

Ducks are Drakes... well, I can't tell you much about ducks, but I can tell you more now. This story made me laugh and it was intentional, so that's good. The premise is simple enough. It turns out Mary wants to know if Paula killed her husband. Paula evades the question with a series of non-sequitors about ducks. She claims, in fact, that duck quacks don't echo. That just sounds freaky to me. Like vampires don't have reflections.

Anyway, the duck facts are part of a funny banter between Mary and Paula, but it's not the only reason the story deserves a read. Can't say more - it's flash fiction after all. Take a look.

"Funeral for a Friend" by Simon Kernick

From: Damn Near Dead: An Anthology of Geezer Noir. Ed. Duane Swierczynski. Busted Flush Press, 2006.

This is the story of the funeral for Francis Edward Hanson—Vietnam vet, bank robber, coke dealer—as told by Hanson himself. Just when I thought this might be a ghost story, Kernick revealed that Hanson faked his death and attended the funeral to see his would-be murderers get their comeuppance.

While some colloquialisms were a bit off, Hanson's colorful life and seen-it-all voice kept me reading.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"The Weight" by Tim Maleeny

From: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine July/August 2007. Ed. Linda Landrigan.

Police officer Danny Rodriguez stops by for a few beers with his retired partner Sam. starting a story with, "I found a dead pimp last week." He goes on to identify the pimp as Shortball, a midget drug addict whom they both knew. With the mayor cracking down on the department's homicide closure rate, no one is looking very hard into Shortball's apparent suicide, but Danny believes it's suspicious.

As Danny details his independent investigation, we learn that Sam has lost his wife to cancer, been fitted with a prosthetic leg, and is struggling at a relationship with his daughter Sally, who believes his time away from home contributed to her mother's suffering. Danny wraps up his story revealing that he tracked a runaway girl to Shortball and that he believes the girl's father may have killed Shortball and made it look like suicide.

You may have guessed this is a friendly-visit-to-trap-a-suspect story, but Maleeny executes it well.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

NBS Special Report: Stop Unfair Postal Hikes

From Kate Stine and Brian Skupin of Mystery Scene:

Hi everyone,

We are asking all of Mystery Scene's friends and readers to help us.

There's a HUGE postal hike in the works which unfairly targets small magazines to the considerable advantage of larger ones. It's going to put a number of magazines out of business and cause considerable hardships for many others.

There's a petition at this URL which explains the issue:

Please take a look. If you sign the petition, an email will automatically go to your representatives in Washington and the postal commission.

We would really appreciate the help!

Kate Stine & Brian Skupin

Without action against them, the new rates will take effect July 15, 2007. More detail from The Boston Globe.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Four for Dinner" by John M. Floyd

From: Seven By Seven, ed. Tony Burton, Wolfmont Publishing, 2006.

In this 2007 Derringer-winning story from a flash fiction anthology based on the Seven Deadly Sins, Carolyn Hendon receives a phone call from a stranger claiming to have kidnapped her husband. The stranger goes on to describe her husband's car and license plate, but Mrs. Hendon is certain her husband is home. When the stranger warns he isn't bluffing, he will kill her husband, Carolyn tells him to go ahead and hangs up.

A well-executed take on mistaken identities, with an ending I didn't guess.