Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Hit and Run" by Glenville Lovell

From: Hard Boiled Brooklyn ed. Reed Farrel Coleman. Bleak House Books, 2006.

Carla's cousin Martha recommends her when a man with a Caribbean accent offers $15,000 to anyone who will marry him so he can get his green card. At first, Carla isn't interested at all, but Martha and her own money problems convince her. Meeting the man, Carla talks him up to $100,000. As they go through the motions of marriage and commitment, Carla finds herself willing to kill her new husband to collect on a $1,000,000 life insurance policy. In making her plans, Carla learns the man is not who he seems.

A fast-moving story with nuanced dialogue and selfish characters. The ending comes out of nowhere, just like a hit-and-run.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"The Golden Gopher" by Susan Straight

From: Los Angeles Noir ed. Denise Hamilton. Akashic Books, 2007.

Straight's Edgar-nominated story follows successful travel writer FX Antoine searching downtown L.A. for Grady Jackson. As a teenager, FX stowed away in Grady's car to make it to Los Angeles. Now she feels a duty to tell him him his old flame Glorette—FX's best childhood friend—has been killed in their old neighborhood of Rio Seco.

Highlighting local color, socioeconomic and racial divides, "The Golden Gopher" is literary as well as noir.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Blue Note" by Stuart M. Kaminsky

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

In late 1950s Chicago, blues aficionado and notoriously bad gambler Pitch Noles is forced into a latenight game of poker. Loan shark Terrance "Dusk" Oliver threatens to hurt Pitch's blues singer mother unless Pitch wins at least $40,000 from three men who have previously beaten Oliver at poker.

Readers feel Pitch's nerves and desperation as he reads the three strangers for tells. Playing the game of his life, he manages to meet Oliver's price, but one final surprise turns this noir story on its head.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Uncle" by Daniel Woodrell

From: A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir. Ed. Megan Abbott. Busted Flush Press, 2007.

Woodrell's Edgar-nominated story is told by a young woman who's lived for years under the thumb of her serial rapist uncle. One day she rescues a particularly feisty girl and, in the aftermath, attacks her uncle with a mattocks, leaving him brain-damaged the rest of his life.

Now forced to look after her uncle, the narrator wonders if, in his debilitated state, he is still evil.

A fine nominee, "Uncle" is an example of how to use voice and description to their best effect in five pages.

Friday, January 18, 2008

NBS Special Report: 2008 Edgar Nominees


"The Catch" – Still Waters by Mark Ammons (Level Best Books)
"Blue Note" – Chicago Blues by Stuart M. Kaminsky (Bleak House Books)
"Hardly Knew Her" – Dead Man's Hand by Laura Lippman (Harcourt Trade Publishers)
"The Golden Gopher" – Los Angeles Noir by Susan Straight (Akashic Books
"Uncle" – A Hell of a Woman by Daniel Woodrell (Busted Flush Press)

Congrats and good luck to all.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Messenger From Hades" by Edward D. Hoch

From: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2008.

The mystery community is saddened today by the passing of the prolific Edward D. Hoch. In tribute to Hoch, a review of his story in the latest AHMM.

In 1842, approaching his thirtieth birthday, Charles Dickens, his wife Kate, her maid Anne Brown, and his traveling secretary George Putnam tour America aboard the steamboat Messenger. One of Dickens's card-playing companions is murdered aboard ship, and an observant Dickens helps flush out the killer.

A clever mystery cloaked in period detail, I'm sure this exemplifies but a fraction of Hoch's talent. He will be missed.

"The Hard Case" by Robert Lopresti

From: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2008.

Having served twenty-five years at Longman State Penitentiary, Ray Keegan has just finished breakfast at a diner when the town sheriff arrives. The nephew of a jewelry store owner is accusing Keegan of the owner's murder. Keegan says he didn't do it, but who will the sheriff believe?

The title refers to Keegan, but at first glance, it seems to belie the story's brevity. Clever and compelling, "The Hard Case" inspired AHMM's April cover.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Tourist Trade" by James O. Born

From: Dublin Noir ed. Ken Bruen. Akashic Books, 2006.

Born's contribution to this memorable anthology follows a serial-killing Irishman with an otherwise idyllic life and a surprising, darkly comic motivation.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Pain Management" by Tyler Dilts

From: Crimespree #16 (January/February 2007).

One year after a knife attack, the homicide detective protag of this story has recovered most of the feeling in his hand. Unfortunately he's left in chronic pain, reliant on a plethora of painkillers and doctors. The detective's first case back is a bloody double-murder. His narrative voice is no-nonsense, and the story alternates between his investigation and his attempts to cope with his pain.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

"Skull and Cross Examination" by Toni Kelner

From Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2008

Pirates were and nasty and brutish, right? And some of them were probably short. So this story is certainly appropriate for the venue.

I don't believe I've ever seen a pirate story in EQMM before, and it's been a while since I read one anywhere. So it was a pleasure to run across this one. It's told in the form of a long letter home from a young man on his way to Jamaica where he hopes to establish himself as a lawyer. His father doesn't have a very high opinion of him or his chances.

Along the way, the ship he's on is attacked by pirates, and the crew and passengers are taken captive. That night, there's a murder, and the young man is called upon to be the lawyer for the accused at a trail to be held on shipboard.

This is an amusing, well-told tale, one I recommend for anybody who likes pirates, murder, or courtroom drama. This one has it all.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

"Guarding Lacey" by Kris Nelscott

From: Chicago Blues. Ed. Libby Fischer Hellman,

Set in January 1970, this story is from the viewpoint of Jim, a boy rescued by Nelscott's series P.I. Smokey Dalton after witnessing the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now twelve years old and masquerading as Dalton's son, Jim recounts watching his thirteen-year-old cousin Lacey go through puberty and begin to attract undue attention.

As in the previously reviewed "Johnny Seven", the world of children is shown as disparate from that of adults, and because of this, Jim is reluctant to report his suspicions to Dalton. All the same, readers know along with Jim that Lacey is bound for trouble, and when things go wrong, Jim wishes he could have done more.

Excellent period and cross-gender writing.