Friday, December 29, 2017

"Farewell Cruise" by Martin Edwards

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January-February 2018, p. 43–49

This is an atmospheric tale from the viewpoint of a pianist observing three Caribbean cruise guests. Visiting the ship's lounge each night, new divorcée Wanda Thomson appears to be seducing her lawyer, Justin Lemaitre, as Justin's wife Millie looks on, increasingly humiliated.

The pianist comes to sympathize with Millie, and she tells him she's given Justin an ultimatum: her or Wanda. Justin appears to choose Millie, and Wanda appears to commit suicide, but Edwards reminds us throughout that the pianist is not a professional detective and we must keep asking how close his perspective is to the truth.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Wake Me When It's Over" by Robert Garner McBrearty

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January-February 2018, p. 137–38

Avid fiction readers want to buy into everything writers do in telling stories. The late writer and teacher John C. Gardner described the writer's task as creating a vivid, continuous dream. Revealing sections or whole stories to be dreams, though, can make readers feel cheated, rudely awakened.

In twenty-two paragraphs across two pages, Robert Garner McBrearty uses dreams to present protagonist Samuels' suspicion his wife is having an affair. Along with Samuels, though, we become unable to tell dream from reality, not waking us, but locking us in.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"Stick" by Doug Allyn

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January-February 2018, p. 17–30

Doug Allyn's latest EQMM story turns on deceptive appearances. Elderly "Stick" Shefer fends off assault by a knife-wielding meth addict, but a security camera records the incident, drawing the attention of inquisitive police detective Chantelle Robinson.

Though Shefer has nothing to fear from his encounter with the meth addict, Chantelle's interest relates to the thirty-year-old unsolved homicide of her mother, Rita. At the time, Shefer was romantically involved with Rita's mother, Velvet Dunbar, and Rita's body was found in his car.

Reluctant as he is out of respect for Velvet, Stick's involvement in the story goes well beyond telling Chantelle what he remembers of the night of the murder. The more Stick is drawn in, the more readers are, until a satisfyingly full picture of that night develops.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

e-Golem by SJ Rozan

Okay, so SJ is known to all mystery readers and has won every prize for mystery writing available except, ironically, The Rozan*. But this story is really good. I mean it takes place in a used bookstore - what more dangerous setting for a writer can there be? Every cliche is primed and ready for use. See also: writers writing about writer's block.There is also the Book of Ancient Wisdom trope.

So you might start to wonder if the story is merely a pile of dusty cliches. It's not... Unless you think a pile of dust is always a pile of dust. And to think that, you'd need to forget your Genesis story... The Bible one, not the Star Trek one.

The story starts with the dust of the bookstore and ends with the dust of the bookstore. What happens in between, well, let's just say you'll like it.

Find it in the current Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

* She was a lock for it earlier this year when I made it up, but she missed a filing deadline. Ah well, there's always next year...

Friday, September 01, 2017

"Come Back Paddy Reilly" by Con Lehane

You read Con Lehane novels for the poetry of language and for the completely human characters. You read this short story in the current Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine for the same reasons.

Paddy Reilly is a Bronx-Irish cop working undercover when he comes into contact with Nancy, a woman who used to be a girl he knew way back when. As in other Lehane stories, when two people collide, a heart has to break somewhere. The fact that it's a "Black Mask" entry for EQMM should also tell you something about how this one will play out.

As a writer, I'm in awe of Con's ability to quickly draw a character who appears to be every bit human.

If you're looking for longer form work from Lehane, try his "Murder at the 42nd Street Library."