Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"The Bridal Bed" by John Connolly

From: Nocturnes by John Connolly. Atria Books, 2006.

For Halloween, a story from Connolly's dark, supernatural-tinged collection. Engaged for a year, a man's fiancee is murdered two weeks before their wedding. Enthralled with her in life, the man is haunted after her death—seeing her ghostly form, hearing her call to him. On what would have been their wedding night, their first night together, he decides to exhume her body.

Monday, October 29, 2007

"No One" by Marcus Sakey

From: Chicago Blues ed. Libby Fischer Hellman. Bleak House Books, 2007.

Reprinted from Thirteen is this confessional from the author of The Blade Itself. The narrator is a shy, depressed college student who at first appears to be emoting to a nonexistent e-mail address about the woman who got away. His voice shifts subtly from regret to anger until readers are hanging, wondering just what the narrator has done and how hard its revelation will hit.

"My Father's Gun" by Dave White

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

On the fiftieth anniversary of his sister's death, Leonard Baker, the man who would be Jackson Donne's father-in-law, goes missing along with a gun. Leonard's wife Sarah asks Donne to search for him. Finding Leonard at the cemetery where his sister is buried, Donne interrupts his attempt to commit suicide.

This story's turning point is not that Jackson saves Leonard's life, but that Leonard helps Jackson deal with a completely unexpected tragedy. "My Father's Gun" doesn't stand alone as well as other stories in Damn Near Dead, but it's fine reading for fans of White's series P.I.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Breakfast Anytime", by Bryon Quertermous

From: SHOTS Magazine, Summer 2005

"There are very few clean places in Detroit, but way down Gratiot Avenue, near Detroit City Airport, is a whole different level of dirty."

And that's where Detective Atkins and Detective Birney from Internal Affairs wait for their informant in a dingy diner. When the snitch shows up they barely have time to exchange pleasantries before a masked man pumps two shots into his back.

Atkins gives chase but could only watch helplessly as the shooter jumps into a car that speeds off down the street. Directly into the path of a tractor-trailer, which crumples it like a used beer can.

And that's where it gets weird.

A brief review can't do it justice, but this story rocks. Quertermous uses a nonlinear narrative structure to jump around in time, showing us both what led up to the murder as well as Atkins and Birney trying to piece together what happened. Most stories with flashbacks end up as dismal failures, but not this one - the time frame may move around but the story plunges ahead.

And that's what I liked best about "Breakfast Anytime" - it races along with gleeful abandon, the pedal flat on the floor. It's obvious that Bryon had a lot of fun writing it, and I expect you'll have fun reading it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

"Good and Dead" by Evan Hunter

From: Learning to Kill by Ed McBain. Harcourt, 2006.

To commemorate Hunter's birthday (October 15), a review of one of his Matt Cordell stories originally published in Manhunt in July 1953.

In "Good and Dead," alcoholic former P.I. Cordell looks into the death of his drinking buddy Joey, crossing culture barriers into New York's Chinatown.

Later deciding "cops were the only people who had any right to be sticking their noses in murder investigations," Hunter gave up writing private eyes, but "Good and Dead" has what readers came to expect from the author: palpable atmosphere, crackling dialog, and the right tinge of noir.

Monday, October 15, 2007

NBS Special Report: One Year Later

Nasty. Brutish. Short. debuted in the Blogosphere with Graham Powell's review of "Dr. Ralph" by James R. Winter. One year later, Graham, Bill, John, Steven, and I have reviewed more than 120 stories from Web zines, print zines, collections, and anthologies.

Thanks to my fellow reviewers, and thank you, our readers and visitors. We hope we've done our part to showcase the short story in general and the crime story in particular.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"The Maltese Cat" by Sara Paretsky

From: Most Wanted ed. Robert J. Randisi. Signet, 2002.

A very reticent client hires V.I. Warshawski to convince her teenage sister to return home. After some digging, V.I. discovers the woman may be more interested in the return of her rare cat than of her sister.

Paretsky doesn't supply many details to start, but gives each character depth and emotional investment as the story proceeds. This is equally true for V.I. Once again, we see believable sympathy beneath her hardboiled exterior.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gold Mountain by Terrence Cheng

This is the story (Bronx Noir, edited by SJ Rozan for Akashic Books)of a chinese food delivery man. No ordinary delivery man to be sure. He's a recent immigrant to New York and works near Lehman College in the Bronx - a college I myself went to as a student for the first couple of years in my undergraduate education.

He suffers all the little and large indignities that a newcomer to New York faces and others that most newcomers don't face. His immigration wasn't quite legal and even within the chinese community it seems that his dialect sets him apart as a minority. In fact, he was a survivor of one of the more in/famous NYC moments - the "Golden Venture", a ship that ran aground with 286 illegal immigrants, ten of whom died. The delivery man escaped, even made off with something valuable, but what will he need to do to keep it and will he ever be able to catch hold of the unedited version of the American Dream?

The story grows to a crescendo and the ending will make you do a double take as you reexamine the events that led up to it and the unassuming delivery man himself. Enjoy.

Oh, and by the way, I have an extra copy of the book if anyone's interested - free, postage paid, but let me know in the comments. I'll choose a winner if there's more than one request when I get back home on Monday.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"Marley's Woman" by John C. Boland

From: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2007.

Retired CIA field agent Charles Marley is asked to shadow a current Agency analyst suspected of selling intelligence to the highest bidder. Author Boland effectively takes on the persona of a former Cold Warrior, providing an understated, realistic tale of espionage with a twist of blackmail. Marley ends up intercepting a plot no one needs to know about, and he's just the man to cover it up.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"White Trash" by Jerome Charyn

From: Bronx Noir ed. SJ Rozan. Akashic Books, 2007.

Escaping from a women's prison in Georgia, Prudence Miller, robber and murderer across several states, makes her way to the Bronx on the advice of her cellmate. Connecting with a charismatic, yet oddly chaste man named Omar Kaplan, Pru plans to get lost in a sea of ethnicity.

Charyn's long descriptive passages capture the diversity of the Bronx while tracking Pru's pragmatic, suspicious nature. A fine, fast, dark story.