Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pandora's Bluff by Gilbert M. Stack.

"Pandora's Bluff," by Gilbert M. Stack, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, October 2016.

I am very fond of Stack's Western stories about an unlikely trilogy of travelers.  Corey is a professional bare fist boxer, brave and strong and kind.  Patrick is his manager, more likely to cause trouble than solve it.  Neither of them is very bright but the difference is Corey knows it.  Their companion is Miss Pandora Parsons,  a professional gambler, and she is the brains of the outfit. 

This story begins  with Miss Parson deep in a poker game somewhere in Idaho.   Also playing is a doctor and a banker who wants some land the doctor owns.  It's pretty clear what's going to happen, but can Pandora straighten out the mess that follows?

Well, of course she can.  The plot is no big puzzle, although her quick-thinking provides a nice twist.  The real pleasure of this series is running into these old friends again.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

One Last Job, by Warren Bull

"One Last Job," by Warren Bull, in No Happy Endings, 2016.

This is Bull's second appearance in this blog.

Our hero is a private eye.  He survived World War II and has survivor's guilt about that, but he may not have it much longer, because cancer is killing him.  A friend offers him one last job: track down a beautiful woman who has gone missing.

He does, but the reason she is being hunted is not any of the reasons you might expect.  And before he can decide what to do about that something happens which he actually did expect: a bank robbery.  And he and the young woman both have to decide what to do about that. 

Snappy dialog between the two main characters.  Nice surprise (but not a twist) ending.

last job

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Way They Do It In Boston, by Linda Barnes

"The Way They Do It In Boston," by Linda Barnes, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September/October 2016.

Heightened language.  What does that mean?

To me it means the words in the story do something more than get the story from the beginning to the end.  They tell you something about the characters or the nature of the universe in which they find themselves.

Here is Barnes' omniscient third-person narrator describing the main character's dog:

Gid got his name in the army.  the shredded ear is courtesy of the service as well.  the shelter dude said the dog left the service early because he lost his sense of mission, basically went AWOL and played catch with Afghan kids. As soon as she heard that Drew felt a sense of kinship with the dog, a bond.  She got blown up and put back together in Iraq.  Lost her sense of mission, too, in the desert near Fallujah.  The shrapnel in her left leg sets off screaming alarms in airports.

Yeah.  Heightened writing.

Drew wants to be a cop in Boston but it's hard to make the resident-for-a-year requirement when you are living in your car with your only friend, a beat-up ex-army dog.

So she's working night security on a tow service parking lot, down by the river.  One night a crate of assault weapons washes up on the shore.  Something bad is going on.  Does it involve the lot?  Can she survive long eonough to find out?

Good stuff.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Lord of Madison County, by Jimmy Cajoleas

"The Lord of Madison County," by Jimmy Cajoleas, in Mississippi Noir, edited by Tom Franklin. Akashic Press, 2016.

What do you find at the corner of Noir and Southern Gothic?  Wicked young ladies, for one thing.

Douglas is a teenager who has come up with the perfect place to sell drugs: his church's youth group.  Pastor Jerry loves the kids' ecstatic enthusiasm and doesn't have a clue as to what's going on.  He also doesn't know what's going on between his young daughter and Douglas.

But another adult gets Douglas  into trouble with his dealer and things, in fine Noir fashion, go to hell.  What I love about this story is that it is full of classic Noir characters but you can't predict what will happen based on the standard stereotypes.  Some of them go off in surprising directions.  Very nice piece of work.