Crime is character building, at least in crime fiction, because it is characters, their dark psychologies and questionable motivations, that drive compelling stories—as the tales in this issue amply demonstrate.
What compels a model prisoner, in Tony Richards’s “Magpie Man,” to burst out of jail just before he is to be lawfully released? What motivates a desperate woman, in Dale Berry’s graphic story “Dead Air,” to strike up a conversation with a radio DJ? Why does a detective, in Wayne J. Gardiner’s “Bygones,” return home for the funeral of his high-school adversary?
Interpersonal entanglements complicate Charles John Harper’s police procedural “The Echoes.” A man seeking invisibility is driven from the dangerous shadows in Bob Tippee’s “Underground Above Ground.” Susan Oleksiw’s “How Do You Know What You Want” is a poignant story of a teen in foster care and the woman who tries to connect with her, and Martin Limón’s P.I. Il Yong pursues a case that takes him to the remote reaches of the Himalayas, where survival may depend on the uncertain kindness of othes, in “hominid.”
Social institutions and conventions are questioned in Alan E. Foulds’ “Razor’s Edge” when a reporter revisits a long-ago cold case, and in Mitch Alderman’s “Bleak Future” when P.I. Bubba Simms looks into extortion among central Florida’s genteel society. An old injustice gets a fresh look in “Rough-Hewn Retribution,” Nancy Pauline Simpson’s historical set in the early twentieth century South. A homicide detective and suspect match wits in the interview room in Chris Knopf’s “A Little Cariñoso.” And a land dispute is complicated—and deadly—in Gilbert M. Stack’s British historical whodunit “Greed.”
Watch out, these complicated characters will steal your attention—and perhaps your sympathy.
Disfunctional family dynamics provide rich ground for crime stories, as three of September’s stories demonstrate. A well-off London woman hears unsettling news about her fourth husband in Neil Schofield’s “Middleman.” Two vacationing sisters skirt dangerous emotional territory in “Ross Macdonald’s Grave” by Terence Faherty. And a would-be burglar provokes unsettling memories in Bob Tippee’s “A Pushover Kind of Place.”
We’re delighted to make two introductions this month. Kathy Lynn Emerson’s new series character Mother Malyn makes her AHMM debut in “The Cunning Woman.” And we welcome Christopher Latragna, whose AHMM debut “Well-Heeled Shooters” is set on a St. Louis riverboat casino.
Also this month, R. T. Lawton continues his series featuring a Chinese youth thrust into his father’s drug trade and surviving by his wits in the jungle in “On the Edge.” C. B. Forrest returns with “The Runaway Girl from Portland, Oregon,” set in a San Francisco alley during the “Summer of Love.” And Lieutenant Cyrus Auburn and Sergeant Dollinger look into the murder of a traveling salesman in “Solo for Shoehorn” by John H. Dirckx.
Finally, we are saddened to note the passing of Maynard Allington, who died before we could publish his espionage story this month, “The Rostov Error.”
Bob Tippee is an award-winning business journalist who writes about the oil and gas industry. His stories for AHMM are often set in fiercely competitive workplace cultures; our June cover story, “The PLT,” is an excellent example.
Fiction, of course, must transport the reader beyond immediate reality into a world of the writer’s imagination. Hugely important to that world is setting, a bundle of qualities unique to any story that might be said to fit along a spectrum defined by other-worldly fantasy at one extreme and here-and-now familiarity at the other. Settings between those poles must be somehow exotic: places where a reader might wish or be loath to go but cannot, possibly in combination with times inaccessible as well. Continue reading