Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Drive-Thru" by David Dietrich

From: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May 2010.

Working the midnight-to-six shift alone at the Atlas Burger drive-thru window, the narrator of this story doesn't believe he's being robbed when he hears an unfamiliar man's voice through his piece-of-junk headset. Bored, and perhaps jaded, the narrator engages the would-be robber in conversation.

This isn't how you might expect a crime story to unfold, but it's just right for AHMM's annual humor issue. Disembodied dialogue across the narrator's headset and the drive-thru speaker drives the story yet keeps it unpredictable.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Nowhere to Go by Iain Rowan

I've been reading Iain Rowan for a long time now going back to the heady days when Shred of Evidence was around. He's a master of creepiness and this AHMM story from the end of last year is not an exception.

Here's the set up: A man with way too much time on his hands witnesses a murder via his laptop. He calls the authorities and gives what information he has, but it appears to be a wild goose chase as far as the police are concerned. There is no evidence to corroborate the story, no missing person who might have been the victim, etc. There's some chance, of course, that the witness is insane, but, well... Isn't that always the case? The man decides to investigate for himself (after all, his sanity is in question, and one likes to clear those issues up) but what he finds out won't at all be what he expected.

Mr. Rowan has put together a tricky story and made it run like clockwork.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Out of Her Depth by John C. Boland

The December 2009 issue of AHMM includes this story by John Boland, an author whose work I've admired before. In this story, the reader is treated to multiple points of view and voices (complex and a nifty bit of craftsmanship, but never irksome to the reader). A man is dying on a ship in the opening section, but this quickly turns to the hiring of a detective by the potential widow. It seems she and her millionaire husband were in the midst of settling a divorce which would cut her out of his estate unless... unless it turns out her husband died before the divorce was finalized.

Meggie Trevor takes the case and goes to retrace the potential victims last steps.Meggie's voice throughout the remainder of the story is, I think, the main draw. She sounds like the type of person you may want to know - real. Not an easy thing to do in a short story.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Caretaker by Terence Faherty

The December 2009 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine has a story you shouldn't miss by Terence Faherty. The man writes delicately beautiful prose which is not something that can be said for every mystery writer. His care in phrasing and word choice is phenomenal and worth study.


Anne Abbott is taking care of a house in Jackson Hole Wyoming. The place is isolated from society under a big sky, and the only other person for miles around is the caretaker of another house not too far away - a mysterious stranger with a limp. Can't hardly think of anything that could possibly go wrong there...

Except that Anne is not the type of young lady who could let a mysterious stranger simply float into and out of her life without her investigating.

And her investigations turn up what she thinks might be a star-crossed love affair. but what role does a hatchet play in it all? Well, take a look to find out. I'll mail my beat up copy to whoever asks first.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Hate Tapes by Doug Allyn

The March AHMM fairly brims with great stories, and this is one of them. The story starts with a rock concert (I've never been to one of those) by an aging band in 1991. Their heyday was about twenty years past and they thought they'd seen it all. Then, during the last song, there's a scuffle on the dance floor and a fan winds up dead.

Nothing to do with the band, right? Well, it turns out the lead singer knows the guy - the stabee, if you will. The police want the singer to stay in town since no one else knows the dead guy. And it turns out that the last words on the dead man's lips were "hate tapes." Is that a reference to the recording medium or a reference to the music that was being played or something else entirely? Figuring that out is a key to figuring out who killed the guy.

Doug Allyn is a favorite at AHMM, though his stories sometimes leave me a little cold. This one, however, was quite good.