Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Insurance by Fletcher Flora

The latest AHMM has a story first published long ago. I've never heard of the author before and, in fact, I almost wrote the name down as Flora Fletcher. Anyway, the story centers around a husband/wife team trying to defraud an insurance company by pretending the husband has died in a barn fire. Of course, to do this, they need a reasonable cadavar and getting that is part of the story.

Then, of course, the real husband has to disappear so the wife can get paid and do her own disappearing act. The way the con would normally go, the husband and wife meet up after the payout and live happily ever after, but I think you can see a myriad ways things could go wrong. For instance, if the insurance fails to pay out. That's not what happens here, but it could have.

In any event, while I think I've seen the outline of the plot before, the story is still worthy of notice - Loren Estleman introduces the story by saying that not a single word is wasted, and I have to admit with a build up like that, I really tried finding wasted words. He's right. They're not there. The prose is sharp as a knife. There are three things that force the reader to keep turning pages and this story certainly has one of them - poetry in nearly every line. A hard-bitten poetry. Poetry of a broken nose. Still, it was a joy to read.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Buckner's Error" by Joseph Guglielmelli

From: Queens Noir ed. Robert Knightly. Akashic Books, 2008.

Winner of this year's MWA Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Short Story, "Buckner's Error" is equal parts classic baseball banter and true noir. As the story trundles on the 7 Train from Grand Central Station to Shea Stadium, readers follow an unnamed Mets fan hitman zeroing in on power broker, pervert, and Sox fan Jack Buckner.

Death Inside the Box by John Dirckx

The latest issue of AHMM includes another story by John Dirckx, one of my favorite mystery short story writers. Dirckx is well known for his Cyrus Auburn stories, but this one is a change of pace, and I'm not totally convinced it works as well.

For those who don't know, Auburn is a homicide detective in Baltimore, quite cerebral, good at his job. This new story features a coroner named Mary Deventer.
Deventer si called out to a power plant where a veteran worker has managed to electrocute himself. Accident or murder? Suspicion arises because it was a rookie mistake that killed the victim. Well, this turns out to be a crime and, of course, it is solved. No real problems there, but...

Hopefully, what follows isn't a spoiler.

I'm used to my Cyrus Auburn where there is a motive made plain. I didn't really get a motive for murder as far as I could see. Of course, a coroner may not be concerned with motive so it is true to life, I suppose, but then, that truthiness doesn't necessarily make the story moving or interesting. The Cyrus Auburn stories are always that.

Anyway, grain of salt time.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Silverfish by SJ Rozan

This neat little story is part of Ellery Queen's Black Mask department and fits in well as it deals with prostitutes, johns, and pimps.Silverfish is the name of a pro with a heart of gold. She takes into her care a less experienced, naive prostitute who happens to have a nasty pimp named Roach. When Roach needs dealing with, Silverfish is there, but, of course, it isn't like she can do anything overt. She can't just shoot him or anything. So how will she get her friend out from under his thumb? Well, let's say she's a trickesy one (pardon the pun).

As with all of SJ's writing, the prose is smooth, the dialogue snappy. Her novel THE SHANGHAI MOON comes out tomorrow.