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November/December 2020

Close out the year with EQMM’s charmingly chilling holiday issue. In our pages you’ll follow clues through the snow in “Killer Instinct” by Doug Allyn, solve a compelling Christmas Eve puzzle by firelight in Catriona McPherson’s “Mrs. Tilling’s Match,” travel through time to the holidays at a coal mine in Almuth Heuner’s Glauser Award-winning “Black Legacy,” and enjoy a Yuletide visit with Ellery Queen and the Puzzle Club in “The Adventure of the Black-and-Blue Carbuncle” by Josh Pachter.

The holidays are known as a family time, and characters navigate those ties in “My People” by Liza Cody, featuring an undercover police officer, “Good Decisions” by Edwin Hill, in which two couples navigate their desires, “The Cards You’re Dealt” by Michael Z. Lewin, featuring Sergeant LeRoy Powder, and “The Man at the Window,” a Slater and Lomond case by Pat Black. Much like unwrapping a gift, characters sometimes give more than you’d expect, such as those in “The Man From Scotland Yard Dances Salsa” by John Lantigua, a Willie Cuesta mystery, “Crumble” by Christine Poulson, set in a small English town, and “The Other Imelda” by R.T. Raichev, featuring always reluctant sleuth Antonia Darcy and her husband Major Payne.

Two entires from our Black Mask department shine like coal in a stocking: “Duel of the Aces” by Travis Kennedy and “Boomerang Dice,” a classic reprint by Stewart Stirling. Meanwhile, power dynamics shift uneasily in “The Winner” by LaToya Jovena, “Maps” by Kim Harbridge, and “The Tuesday Curse” by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg.

As you read “The Line” by Cath Staincliffe, “Words Don’t Kill” by Jehane Sharah, and “A Voice From the Dark” by Maurissa Guibord, you might find yourself reflecting on your year’s deeds (or misdeeds). Finally, we invite you to consider the stories published in EQMM this year and fill out our Readers Award ballot!

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Killer Instinct

by Doug Allyn

The traffic was murder. With only seven shopping days left till Christmas, downtown Detroit was humming like a hive. Big-box stores and mom-and-pop shops were ablaze with holiday displays, caroling angels, glittering trees, fat Santas. Bell ringers with buckets hovered in every second doorway, clanging away, hoping to lure in the shoppers who were slogging through the slush, focused on their phones.

At the wheel of the Daily Maid passenger van, Ali Brooks was having his usual meltdown, griping at the traffic, griping at pedestrians in general and the handicapped in particular.

“Yo! Bitch! The damn sign says Don’t Walk! You blind? What’s up wit’ you?” Two elderly women, one using a walker, were frozen on the center line with traffic blasting past them from both directions, horns blaring. Ali leaned on his horn as he passed, shaking his fist out the window. READ MORE


My People

by Liz Cody

I was standing with five other people, arms linked, protecting a man dressed as a giant cauliflower who had superglued himself to Lambeth Bridge. The vegetable needed our protection: We’d all seen on Facebook how rough the police had been to climate protesters in the first two days of the action. Previous actions had passed off quite amicably, so no one had expected brute force.

While I was linked, I couldn’t protect my possessions and I watched, helpless, while the cops confiscated my tent, my bedroll, my wash bag, my spare underwear, and the thick woolly I wear at night. They broke my tent pole and my radio.

The irony was that the cops were damaging the equipment they had bought and paid for themselves. My name is Shareen Manasseh, police officer Shareen Manasseh, and I was employed by the Metropolitan Police to infiltrate a group of climate-change rebels.  READ MORE

Passport to Crime

Black Legacy

by Almuth Heuner


The muffled explosion hadn’t yet died away before the air and the smoke and the heat rolled through the narrow passageways and engulfed the men. Suddenly there was dust everywhere, and screams mingled with the screeching of the coal carts that had jumped the rails when the blast wave struck them. Karl pressed his forearm to his mouth and nose and tried to breathe through the cloth of his jacket when another miner shouted something into his ear.

“What?” Karl shouted back, feeling around. There was a coal face on the right side, but on the left there was nothing.

The other man pulled on his jacket, and Karl let himself be led. There must have been firedamp somewhere behind them. The roof began to creak and grind and the man’s grip on Karl’s arm grew tighter. It must be Willy—his friend and the foreman. Willy knew how to reach fresh air, the shaft, the cage, and then the surface.

Then he thought: Barbara. READ MORE

Black Mask

Boomerang Dice

by Stewart Sterling

The fat man in the black sedan was counting bills.

“How’ll you have it, Johnny?” he said, sourly.

“Anything but two-spots, Tim.” The bronze-faced man in London tailoring turned to look at the board. The numbers for the seventh race were just going up.

“Makes six grand, Johnny. A sweet pick. Ya know somethin’?”

“Hell, no.” The broad tweed-covered shoulders shrugged.

“How d’ya guess ’em, big boy? Gotta pipeline?”

Johnny frowned. He leaned one elbow confidentially on the open window of the sedan:

“Listen, you. I’ve no inside track. I wouldn’t bet a thin dime on these stable tips. And I don’t know a damn thing about horse flesh either. That’d only cost jack, way they run these hounds in and out. This ain’t a racetrack; it’s a racket.”

“Cripes! You ain’t kickin’? Ya put the finger on four in a row, now.”

“No, I’m not kicking. I don’t mind playing a game that’s framed, long’s I know it’s framed. And I don’t have to be wised up on the fix either. I know hogs, if I don’t know horses. That’s all these two-timers down here are . . . a bunch of lousy hogs.”

He tucked the roll of yellows in his wallet.

“Give you a chance at it again tomorrow, Tim,” he called, strolling away.

“The hell you will,” answered the bookie. READ MORE

Department of First Stories

The Winner

by LaToya Jovena

I arrived early to get a good seat; unfortunately a lot of the women here had the same idea.

I guess this was to be ex-pected. We were a lot alike. African-American. Late teens to early forties. Carriers of middle-class paraphernalia.

The only perceivable difference was that they were dressed for the occasion while I was not. Thin or heavy, they were wearing dresses or carefully tailored pants. They clacked across the pale hardwood floors in high heels or left silent shadows as they moved through the soft pink lighting. I, on the other hand, was dressed more like the security, in my Air Jordan sneakers and baggy sweatpants.

None of this would matter to China. She was thankful for anyone who bought a ticket, and she always stayed to the very end. I followed her social-media accounts for long enough to know that.

A woman took the seat next to mine. Her deep brown skin was blemish free, and most of it was visible in a short, blindingly white, cap-sleeve dress. Not a strand of her waist-length black hair was hers. She was a China fanatic, the entire look was an imitation of her.

“Hi, I’m Violet,” she said as she shoved her manicured fingers in my direction.

“Angie,” I said. Her hand was soft and she smelled lightly of vanilla.

“Have you met China before? This will be my third time.”

She had a smile full of straight white teeth, but it fell when she saw the look on my face.

“What does China have to say that you would pay to see her three times?” READ MORE


The Jury Box 

by Steve Steinbock

Popular fiction—romance, science fiction, mysteries, etc.—is often tagged as “escapist literature.” True, I enjoy leaving my own world to travel to a dig in 1890s Egypt along with Elizabeth Peters’s character Amelia Peabody, or for some late-night larceny with Lawrence Block’s burglar hero Bernie Rhodenbarr, or globetrotting with Daniel Silva’s art-restoring assassin Gabriel Allon. But sometimes, rather than providing escapism, crime fiction gives us a window into the deeper parts of ourselves, forcing us to glimpse at—and vicariously share in—humanity at its lowest and most desperate. I got a large dose of that with this month’s batch of books. And while exposing me to the nastier sides of human experience, they ironically left me with a taste of redemptive hope. READ MORE


Blog Bytes

by Kristopher Zgorski

Mystery Fanfare ( is a blog run by Janet Rudolph, who is also the editor of Mystery Readers Journal. The journal is an invaluable resource for the crime-fiction community and awards the Macavity, one of the most coveted of crime-fiction accolades. Janet is knowledgeable about all corners of the crime-writing genre and this blog reflects her varied interests. On any given week, you can find Janet posting about news from around the globe as it relates to crime writing and television adaptations, sharing delightful cartoons of a literary nature, and inviting a who’s who of guests to the blog to share their thoughts on topics of interest to both readers and writers. Mystery Fanfare is also typically the first source for posting announcements of award winners for both the major industry prizes and for some of the smaller regional (and international) award ceremonies. READ MORE


Stranger Than Fiction: Preview

by Dean Jobb

The realms of crime fiction and true crime have many intersections. Fiction writers often draw on real investigative techniques, police procedures, and even notorious crime cases in fashioning their stories, and, conversely, fictional sleuths and their methods have occasionally influenced the practices of actual police forces. READ MORE

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