Monday, June 27, 2016

Blame the Bear, by Brian Haycock

"Blame the Bear," by Brian Haycock, in Mystery Weekly, June 11, 2016.

I believe this is the first story from Mystery Weekly to make my weekly best.  It was also their free sample of the week, which you can get sent to your email.

The story is a little thing, flash fiction or close to it, more anecdote than full-blown story.  But it's interesting. containing a character sketch (the narrator), nice language use, and something to think about.

Here's how it starts:

I only know three ways people ever get eaten by bears. There could be others, but I haven’t run across them. 

The gentleman meditating here is a  small-town coroner in West Texas, and as you may have guessed, he is dealing with the results of one of those three methods.  The victim is a meth cooker who apparently lost a fight with a colleague, which led to him starting a new career as bear chow.

Our coroner explains what he can tell from the partial remains that have been brought in by the violently ill deputies. Then he ponders the unfairness of the future that is sure to be waiting for the bear.

And that's about it.  Like I said, it's slight, but it hangs together, and is definitely worth a read.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Blank Shot, by Craig Faustus Buck.

"Blank Shot," by Craig Faustus Buck, in Black Coffee, edited by Andrew MacRae, Dark House Books, 2016.

This is the second appearance on this page by Craig Faustus Buck.

Amnesia appears in fiction more often than it does in real life.  But then again, so do dying message clues, femme fatales, genius detectives and a lot of other tools of the trade.  The trick is what use you make of the item.

Buck has taken us to 1960, East Berlin at the height of the Cold War.  Our protagonist has been shot in the head, a grazing blow that vaporized his memory - or most of it.  Now the cops want to know what happened, and the deadly secret police, the Stasi, are lurking on the sidelines, up to God knows what.

Our hero speaks German and English.  Which is he?  He has the name Slade tattooed on his arm.  Is that his name?  Will he figure out who he is before the shooter realizes he is alive and makes another try?

A fine piece of work.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hotel Hate, by Michael Chandos

"Hotel Hate," by Michael Chandos, in Black Coffee, edited by Andrew MacRae, Darkhouse Books.

This story is set in the world of prohibition in one of the fancy backwoods hotels where gangsters could relax until the heat cooled down.  Our narrator is the owner of Hotel Hatteras in Michigan, called Hotel Hate by her rotten husband who deserted her years ago.  Now he's back and trouble follows...

A nice tale with plenty of period touches.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Best Laid Plans, by Barb Goffman

"The Best Laid Plans," by Barb Goffman, in Malice Domestic: Murder Most Conventional, edited by Verena Rose, Barb Goffman, and Rita Owen, Wildside Press, 2016.

My fellow SleuthSayer Barb Goffman has contributed a nice tale to Malice Domestic's latest anthology, which contains stories related to conventions, conferences, and suchlike scenes of murder and mayhem.   Oops, I should have mentioned that this is her second appearance in this column.  I like to keep track of that.)

Including Malice International, the mystery conference to which narrator Eloise Nickel has been invited for a lifetime achievement award.  Should be a thrill but the guest of honor happens to be Kimberly, a former protege who had gone on to fame and "dropped me like a bloody knife." Kimberly takes  gleeful opportunity to do it again in an article published just before the conference.  She compares her own suspenseful novels to Eloise's old-fashioned cozy books, which some the elderly readers still apparently like -  Well, you get the idea.  It ain't pretty.

Eloise starts plotting revenge. Not murder, of course.  Just some dreadful pain and misery for her rival, to be delivered at the conference.

But, alas, that doesn't seem to be as easily done as said.  People keep rescuing Kimberly, purely by accident.  What's a frustrated revenge-planner to do?

The main reason this story made my Best Of column was the surprise - not twist -ending.  A nice little trick provided a satisfying conclusion.