Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shanks on Misdirection by Robert Lopresti

I've just gotten into Robert Lopresti's long running Shanks series, and they're quite cool. The main character, Leopold Longshanks is a professional mystery writer and more than a little crumudgeonly. In the last story I reviewed, Shanks skewered a self-published author. In this one, he has troubles with writer of nasty reviews and a cozy writer who prefers to be called a "traditional" mystery writer. When the cozy writer's husband talks about having his ATM card eaten by the machine, Shanks suspects something more sinister than a simple ATM malfunction.

In any event, the mystery of this story is relatively slight (though those not knowledgeable of short cons might take a tip or two here) but the story makes up for that in attitude. Shanks and his wife have a healthy back and forth as does Shanks and just about anybody else. Getting back at the reviewer is a nice extra in the story.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Follow Up" by Jo Dereske

From: The Prosecution Rests ed. Linda Fairstein. Little, Brown, and Co., 2009.

In the middle of a blizzard, Michigan parole board member Jeff Willett comes to the aid of a woman stranded in the snow. He learns the woman is the mother of a possible parolee, Danny Hartman, who served time of holding up a 7-Eleven. Desperate to deliver letters in favor of Danny's parole, Danny's mother breaks from Jeff when his car runs off the road.

Jeff searches for her for a while, but when he meets with Danny, the kid seems unwilling to talk or accept possible help from his mother. I wasn't sure whether Jeff wanted to help Danny's mother reach the parole board or if he just wanted to avoid the complications her letters would bring. Either way, this story is a well-delivered, bleak look at the system.