Killers and thieves in our midst try to stay undetected, whether clinging to shadows or hiding in plain sight. The tales in this issue feature intrepid, if sometimes accidental, sleuths who uncover what’s hidden and unmask the villains in surprising and entertaining ways.
Emily Devenport’s heroine Katie Thomas runs out of her condo in her pajamas because she knows a serial killer is stalking her, but her explanation to the police for how she knows beggars belief in “10,432 Serial Killers (in Hell)”. The late B. K. Stevens was a master craftsman of short fiction; in her story “One-Day Pass,” a ghost has one shot to reveal the truth and set things straight. Artist Tamar Gillespie brings her powers of keen observation to the painting of a portrait of three spoiled Pomeranians, which happen to belong to celebrity psychiatrists specializing in the criminal mind, in John C. Boland’s “The Three Dog Problem.” A laid-off copyeditor continues to review her former employer’s website, where she discovers some devastating information hidden in the errors in “Bothering with the Details” by Dayle A. Dermatis. Leslie Budewitz brings us a tale of Stagecoach Mary, the observant and crafty servant to the Ursaline sisters in the Montana Territory in “All God’s Sparrows.”
A ho-hum date at a corny mystery dinner gets interesting when one of the guests disappears in Tara Laskowski’s “The Case of the Vanishing Professor.” At another tense dinner, Deborah Lacy’s protagonist’s thoughts turn to “Taking Care.” Steve Liskow goes deep into the workings of a pickle packaging plant with “The Girl in the Red Bandana.” The death of a feline at the Temple of Bast in ancient Alexandria is a bad omen for Magistrate Ovid, who must solve the mystery before his friend, the inventor Heron, is put to death in “The Worth of Felines” by Thomas K. Carpenter. The provenance of a portrait of Saint Hedwig is at the heart of a puzzle that faces Abbot Joseph and Brother Leo in Marianne Wilski Strong’s new story, “The Abbot and the Garnets.” The heroine of Jane K. Cleland’s “I am a Proud American” discovers a mystery in the identity of her father. And John H. Dirckx returns with another solid procedural set at a perennial summer ritual in “Blowout at the Carnival.” Meanwhile, find out how crime lurks in the everyday aisles of the grocery store, in Neil Schofield’s “Shopping for Fun and Profit.”
In addition to Robert C. Hahn’s book reviews in our Booked & Printed column, and Dying Words, a challenging acrostic by Arlene Fisher, this issue’s features include the debut of a new puzzle, Mixed-Up Sleuths, anagram fun for mystery mavens from Mark Lagasse. We also bring you a special Mystery Classic: Shelly Dickson Carr introduces a short story by her mother Julia McNiven, “Death at Devil’s Hole,” originally published in 1974.
November is our Bouchercon issue. As we prepare to travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, for the conference, the AHMM staff is in a celebratory mood. For one thing, this issue introduces a brand new series from Elaine Viets: death investigator Angela Richman makes her debut in “Gotta Go.” We also celebrate the return to these pages of some reader favorites: John F. Dobbyn with “The Golden Skull”; William Burton McCormick with “Hagiophobia”; Russel D. McLean with “The Water’s Edge”; Chris Muessig with “A Boy’s Will”; Janice Law with “The Dressmaker”; and Joseph D’Agnese with “The Truth of What You’ve Become.” And in the spirit of Bouchercon, we celebrate the genre with an essay by Ken Wishnia on the shifting boundaries of Noir.
Contributing to the celebratory mood, we note the publication of books with AHMM roots. We are proud to publish Loren D. Estleman’s Four Horseman stories set in WWII–era Detroit; he has now collected them in Detroit Is Our Beat (Tyrus Books). John C. Boland has a new collection of stories featuring his “unromantic” spy Charles Marley in The Spy Who Knew Nothing (Perfect Crime Books), all but one of which first appeared here. And B. K. Stevens’s American Sign Language interpreter Jane Ciardi, who first appeared in these pages, is now featured in a new novel, Interpretation of Murder (Black Opal Books).
John C. Boland is, in addition to being a first-rate storyteller, a journalist by trade and, more recently, publisher of Perfect Crime Books. His first story for AHMM appeared in 1976, and since then his stories and novels have been shortlisted for Edgar, Shamus, and many other literary awards. In this post he shares some insights into his marvelous series featuring CIA officer Charles Marley.
I envy writers who sit down in the morning, launch into a story with some idea of where it’s headed, and by lunchtime have 3,500 publishable words. When I say I envy them, that also implies I resent their efficiency. I’ve done it in their admirable way now and then. But most of the time my method is closer to making sausage in a dimly lit garage.
My story in the April Hitchcock’s, “Marley’s Lover,” is a case in point: bits from a failed literary story have been chopped free and stuffed into a mystery casing. I like both stories, as it happens, though both have weaknesses. In “Marley’s Lover,” I got to ridicule the connect-the-dots fallacy that produces “history,” I got to complain (as usual) about the damage inflicted on all of us by time, I got to brush alongside the question of why a number of American Communists became life-long traitors and, finally, I got to duck it by borrowing the words of the British spy Kim Philby on the matter of “staying the course.” There is an implication at the very end that my retired CIA case officer, Charles Marley, has been more of a fool than usual. Continue reading