Our May/June issue is heavy on the humor, but nicely balanced with some darker tales, and topped off by several voices new to our pages. A perfect medley of crime.
On the lighter side is Jeff Cohen’s nervous dad-to-be/proprietor of a comedy film theater, who has serious doubts about the hospital staff in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Girl!”; and Neil Schofield’s ex-Detective-Inspector Harry Tattersby and his side-kick, small-time burglar Eggy, who plumb their underworld connections to break up a gang of under-aged thieves in “Tattersby and the Silence of the Lumbs”; and Catherine Dilts’ scheming Granny cleans up in Turnip Junction in “Unrepentant Sinner.” A tired comedian in a Borscht-belt resort frames John C. Boland’s story “The Kubelsky Block,” featuring perceptive widow Tamar Gillespie, and even draws a few laughs.
Messing with the toughest man in Halifax, Skig Skorzeny, is a dangerous feat, especially when his mechanic Creepy Culbertson has his back in Jas. R. Petrin’s “Money Maker.” Two commuters on the graveyard shift bond over their fondness for mystery novels in Christopher Latragna’s story “The Loneliest Night of the Week.” Detective Fritz Dollinger and Detective Lieutenant Cyrus Auburn team up to puzzle what happened to cause the death of an unidentified man found with a cryptic message in his pocket.
We welcome three newcomers this issue. SJI Holliday’s Scottish Sergeant Davie Gray, who spends his Brighton vacation investigating a murder in “Home from Home,” is featured in her novels Black Wood, Willow Walk, and Damselfly. Retired Judge Debra H. Goldstein—author of Maze in Blue and Should Have Played Poker— brings us “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” which takes place in Birmingham during the Civil Rights era. Los Angeles native Paul D. Marks has had a long career in film directing and writing. He is also the author of White Heat (2012) and Vortex (2015) as well as countless short stories. His story “Twelve Angry Days” recalls the old Henry Fonda film, Twelve Angry Men, but with a very different outcome.
In addition, Jason Half introduces one of his favorite mystery classics, “Daisy Bell” by Gladys Mitchell. All in all, twelve fiendishly good stories to keep you awake all night.
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.
P.I.’s and fixers, burglars and soldiers all join together in our HOLIDAY DOUBLE ISSUE to send you the best wishes of the season! We visit winter locales past and present, chilly and tropical. Michael Nethercott takes readers back to the Fifties with a new tale featuring his Connecticut sleuths Lee Plunket and Mr. O’Nelligan, while S. J. Rozan sets her new series in Manhattan’s Chinatown with matriarch Yong-Yun. Brendan DuBois revisits a facet of rural New England life—kvetching at the town dump. Jay Carey’s Police Chief Eureka Kilburn deals with crime in a time of post global warming Sarasota, and Terence Faherty has an amusing take on Philo Vance that is set in Hawaii. In addition with we have a Mystery Classic treat: a suspenseful puzzler by Hugh Pentecost featuring hotel manager Pierre Chambrun—and you won’t want to miss Marvin Lachman’s insightful introduction for modern-day readers. Happy holidays from AHMM!
History is being made this fall with the first major-party female candidate for president of the United States, and in keeping with this moment of girl power, several of the stories in our October issue highlight women exhibiting their strength of character in a variety of ways. Strong, resourceful women strut their stuff in Susan Oleksiw’s “Variable Winds,” Janice Law’s “Votes for Women,” and Gilbert M. Stack’s “Pandora’s Bluff.” Women challenged by circumstances, bad choices, or malevolent men feature in “Breakfast with Strange” by Martin Limón, “The Book of Judges” by Kevin Egan, “Close Scrutiny” by Elaine Menge, and “Stella by Starlight” by Con Lehane.
In addition, two master storytellers, Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg, collaborate this month on “The Crack of Doom,” while William Burton McCormick chronicles “The Last Walk of Filips Finks.”
Whether damsels in distress or femme fatales or smart cookies, women of mystery always make for reading pleasure!
Over the past sixty years, it has regularly been our pleasure to welcome new voices, writers either new to our pages or making their publishing debut. This double issue continues that legacy. Congratulations, then, to two authors appearing in print for the first time: Jason Half with “The Widow Cleans House,” and Mark Thielman with his Black Orchid Novella Award–winning “A Meter of Murder.” And welcome to three authors new to AHMM: Alan Orloff, author of “The Last Loose End;” Andrea Smith, who introduces to our readers her intrepid beauty salon proprietor Vera Ames in “Beauty Shop of Horror;” and James Nolan, who brings us a tale set in Mexico in “Shortcut to Gringo Hill.”
As it happens, the notion of legacy plays an important role in several of this issue’s tales. Our cover story, Eve Fisher’s “Great Expectations,” examines a family’s handling of a small inheritance. Attorney David Crockett, in Evan Lewis’s “Mr. Crockett and the Indians,” carries with him a rather uncomfortable legacy—the crotchety voice of his ancestor Davy. Kevin Egan’s “The Heist,” set in the New York State Supreme Court building in Manhattan, involves the cultural legacy of a Hungarian émigré. And a legacy of Mob violence drives the latest installment of Janice Law’s series featuring Madame Selina and her young helper Nip.
Regular appearances by favorite writers and characters are another aspect of the AHMM legacy, and this issue features other strong installments in familiar series. John H. Dirckx, a recidivist for nearly forty years, teams Lieutenant Cyrus Auburn and Detective Sergeant Fritz Dollinger in “Can’t Undo.” R. T. Lawton, whose four different series display an impressive range of tone, setting, and eras, this time brings us “The Great Aul,” a new tale of the Armenian and his young Nogai helper. And Terence Faherty, who first appeared in our pages in 2007, offers “Margo and the Milk Trap,” his latest entry in a WWII–era series featuring radio producer Margo Banning.
Great crime fiction is a legacy our readers need not feud over.
Bad ideas often make for good stories. Advising your friend on her love life? Messing about with volatile chemicals? Sharing details of a wealthy client’s will? What could go wrong?
So many, many things, as the stories in our annual humor issue demonstrate. Before you issue a magical challenge to your longtime romantic rival, or abruptly cancel your Hawaiian vacation for a part in a troubled theater production, or seek to engage in collective bargaining when your profession is burglary, ask yourself, what could go wrong?
Or don’t, because the results will be that much more entertaining for the rest of us.
Many of our stories this month pick up on the theme of entrapment in its various forms.
David Tallerman’s “Step Light,” our cover story, features a trap so subtle that its victim barely recognizes his predicament. On the other hand, street-wise tough Skig Skorzeny may be old and infirm, but he can spot a trap when he sees one in Jas. R. Petrin’s “The Devil You Know.” Madame Selina uses her gift as a medium to snare the imaginations of her clients in “The Spiritualist” by Janice Law. And theft and homicide cases converge at a spa detox center for the wealthy in John H. Dirckx’s “Trap and Release.”
Meanwhile, David Edgerley Gates offers a perplexing procedural as Montana Deputy Hector Moody returns in “Crow Moon” to solve a case involving a drunken Vietnam Vet with a broken neck. A copy editor in Julie Tollefson’s “Abundance of Patience” revisits her career and the newspaper industry in light of massive layoffs. And finally, John Gregory Betancourt brings a “new” Mystery Classic to our attention: James Holding’s “The Norwegian Apple Mystery” featuring sleuth Leroy King.
There’s no escaping the great fiction in our March issue: Once you start reading, you’ll be hooked.