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.