Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Very Old Man by Jenny Milchman

Creepy. Let's start with that.

"The man looked older than God or the Devil."

Okay so you're in a supermarket and this old man shambles over to your cart where your 9 month old baby is holding herself steady in the seat, but just barely. He gives the girl a dirty old quarter, gives her leg a shake, mumbles a few words. Creeped out? Or do you think the whole episode is harmless? Assume creeped out since your daughter doesn't look/act quite the same afterwards. What next? Are there steps to take to ward off bad old man juju?

I won't tell you what the mother, Denise, ultimately does. That would break the #1 rule of reviewing. But I can say the story is a very nice bit of character development hinging on Denise's reaction to that initial encounter in the supermarket.

This story is in the latest issue (July 2014) of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and if you like it, you might want to look up her latest novel: RUIN FALLS from Ballantine Books. Or visit the author at her website.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

"The Courier" by Dan Fesperman

In Agents of Treachery, ed. Otto Penzler, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2010.

In 1958, former B-17 gunner and spy Bill Tobin is working at the Federal Records Center, tasked with deciding which documents from World War II get burned, declassified, or locked away, when he comes across the file on Lieutenant Seymour Parker. Shot down during his first mission, Parker was captured by the Swiss and recruited by Tobin because he seemed the sort who would crack if interrogated by the Germans. Allen Dulles and the OSS intended to use Parker to pass bad intelligence to the Germans about U.S. troop movements.

I was drawn into the story as Tobin read the file and recalled his own recruitment by Dulles, and his part in setting Parker up as bait for the Germans. I learned along with Tobin what became of Parker after he was handed over to the Germans in a prisoner exchange fourteen years earlier. Fesperman makes good use of the file to frame this story, and of Tobin's current position to bring about some closure.