Monday, June 30, 2008

Davey's Daughter by Russel D. Mclean

As I've said before, Russel McLean writes some of the best mystery short fiction available through commercial sources. This example in the September 2008 issue of AHMM is a prime example of what I mean. It starts off with a former boxer, Davey, whose sixteen year old daughter has gone missing with some guy who is no good on the surface and might be downright evil at the core. Sam Bryson, former copper and Davey's friend, is called in on the case as Davey has never had much use for the police.

Will Sam be able to track the girl down before she's done in? Will Davey need to ride in to the rescue, fists swinging? Will Sam be able to keep his own temper (prone to sudden flareups) under control? Well, you'll have to buy a copy of the magazine to find out, but this is excellent writing, and in the end your heart will be torn at with sharp cat's claws*.

I should say the issue also contains contributions by John Dirckx and G. Miki Hayden (who finally gets an illustration). Two more excellent reasons to get a copy.

* Okay not the greatest metaphor, but you'll see what I mean if you read the story**.

** Okay, you may not exactly see what I mean, but I promise you'll love the story.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

There's a Killer Loose! by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

This story marks Mickey Spillane's first appearance in EQMM. It was originally a radio script, but it's been recast into story form by Spillane's posthumous collaborator, Max Allan Collins.

The story opens with Terry Devlin, a hospitalized war vet, trapped by the cops in an abandoned building. You can almost hear the voice-over narration before we get the flashback. Devlin has been having periodic blackouts. And people are being murdered. Lots of people believe Terry's the killer. He doesn't know if he is or not. A former girlfriend has gotten him released and taken him in. He's lived peacefully with her and her brother, but now there's been another murder. Devlin is on the run, and the cops are closing in.

Typical Spillane twists and a fine Old-Time Radio flavor make this one a nice entry in EQMM's new Black Mask section.

Bill Crider

Friday, June 20, 2008

Forget Me Never by Terence Faherty

The thing about a Terence Faherty story is that you'll always get an emotional payoff, not just the solution to a puzzle. Of course, the solution is there as well, but the stories always succeed in making you FEEL something too.

In this story (EQMM, June 2008), a reporter for the Star Republic is given a human interest story to follow up. It happens that there are several roadside memorials on different roads throughout town all dedicated to the same young woman - a girl named Maria. Since these memorials normally go up at the spot where the person being memorialized died and Maria can't have died in several different places - the newspaper editor wants to know what's the deal. The reporter does too.

Along the way, the reporter comes across people with their own theories including that Maria is not dead at all but is instead being stalked by someone who wants to make her very afraid. The answer, as you'll see when you read the story, is simpler and more poignant.

As always with a Faherty story, the writing is first class throughout.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Father's Day" by Michael Connelly

From: The Blue Religion ed. Michael Connelly. Little Brown and Company, 2008.

This powerful story opens with a hospital curtain being pulled over the body of a dead child. The child's father admits to leaving the child alone in his car while he was distracted by business that brought him into the office on a weekend. At interview, Bosch suspects the man is lying and expertly baits him into telling the truth.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Baja" by Edward D. Hoch

From: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, September 2008.

New San Diego police detective Annie Sears is assigned to accompany veteran Sgt. Frank Munson to Baja, Mexico to bring armed robber and cop killer Dunstan Quentis back for trial. Quentis manages to escape custody, and Sears prevents Munson from shooting him dead. As the officers continue pursuit, Sears feels guilty about for her part in the escape, but also begins to sense things are not what they seem.

Readers may guess the basic plot here, but the real joy is in the details expertly laid out by Hoch. As vivid and taut as any of his stories, "Baja" is yet more proof how much he will be missed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Keller the Dogkiller by Lawrence Block

The May 2008 issue of Ellery Queen has this nifty short story. If you've read some of Mr. Block's novels you may know that Keller normally works killing humans. As this story begins, however, Dot (who seems to work pretty much as Keller's agent) explains that he's been hired to kill a dog. The money isn't great, but then the risks aren't so big either.

I can't say much about who hires him without spoiling the plot, but I will say that by the time it's all over, it isn't just Fluffy the pit bull that needs killing.

The best part of the story as far as I'm concerned was the dialogue between Keller and Dot which kind of provided a running commentary on the twists in the plot (of which there are plenty). I've never read one of the novels, so I don't know if it is common for the series.

A very enjoyable read.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hidden Gifts by Steve Hockensmith

Steve Hockensmith is one of the best mystery short story writers active today and one of the best even if you go as far back as Poe (which is roughly about as far as you can go in this field). This story is one of his Christmas stories, and those are always a treat.

In this tale, Karen and Ronnie (ages 9 and 6 respectively) are debating the existence of Santa Claus. Karen goes on a hunt through the house to find evidence to prove there is no Santa. If she can only find the gifts she knows her mother has hidden somewhere...But what if her mother, under the influence of "Cousin Rick" the man who showed up and took up residence in her mom's bedroom, has forgotten to buy any presents?

After all, Cousin Rick is just the type to think buying presents for the kids is a waste while the money could be spent on himself. An evil, self centered man with no use for the children.

No worries, however, more than any presents, Karen finds something that might just get Cousin Rick out of the picture for good. But what? How? Read the story. It is in the January 2008 copy of Ellery Queen, and I will send my copy to whoever asks for it first.