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May/June 2020

What’s at stake in a crime tale depends on what characters value, and that comes clearly to light in EQMM’s suspenseful May/June 2020 issue. In Tom Tolnay’s “Rhododendron,” a couple debates what’s important in their community (to surprisingly dark results), and in “Safe” by Judy Clemens a character values the status quo over the safety of others. In “Quality Control” by Susan Dunlap, monetary gain is valued above all, while in “Borrowed Brains” by Alaric Hunt, from the Black Mask department, P.I. Clayton Guthrie puts the value of a stranger’s life over compensation. And values can change as circumstances do, as the central character in Shelly Dickson Carr’s “Nantucket Undertow” finds out.

Protagonists in Marilyn Todd’s “Beyond the Tree Line” and “House of Ash” by Benjamin Percy find importance in freedom, of a kind, while justice and financial gain are at odds in “Noble Rot” by Richard Helms and “Rassendyll’s Grave” by R.T Raichev. Elsewhere, familial loyalty is the driving force for action, as in “Shadow Lane” by David Dean and “Rage Warehouse—Ire Proof” by Toni L.P. Kelner.

We value our fantasies as well, and this is true for characters in Jim Weikart’s “The Frog” and Keith McCarthy’s “The Perfect Crime.” Meanwhile, legacy is of ultimate importance in “The End of the Line” by Katherine Hall Page and the Passport to Crime entry “Travelers’ Rest” by Michael Berg. Finally, how much characters value their work creates tension in “The Workaholic” by N.W. Barcus and “Art in Pieces” by Wynn Quon, both from the Department of First Stories.

Here at EQMM, we value our readership, and you get a voice this issue as the winners of our 2019 Readers Award are announced. You’ll also find new reading material, as our Stranger Than Fiction true crime column by Dean Jobb, formerly only available on our website, comes to the pages of the magazine. As always, EQMM gives readers the highest value in short mystery fiction!

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Fiction

Noble Rot

by Richard Helms

The last person I expected to call me to a murder scene was Bowie Crapster.

First, he knows I don’t like him. Second, he almost always shows up after I’ve been assigned to a case.

I was on the couch at home, watching the pro football Pooler Pythons take a shellacking from the Montana Ospreys on national television. Since Pooler’s down the road, in neighboring Parker County, I was pulling for the Pythons. They seemed to ignore every shred of advice I shouted at them, which—I was convinced—was why they were losing.

My telephone rang. I’m one of the last homes in America with a landline phone. I have a mobile, of course, but I like the dependability of ancient technology.

“Yeah?” I answered. It was dinnertime on a Sunday evening. Odds were high it was a robocall.

“Detective Boatright?” The voice on the other end was smooth, unruffled, and oh-too-familiar.

“Crapster? Why in hell are you calling? How’d you get this number?”

“I have all your numbers,” he said. “You’re needed.” READ MORE

 
 

The End of the Line

by Katherine Hall Page

Walter had never made a will. Not from lack of assets, but from lack of beneficiaries. His sister Shirley had died three years ago. Neither of them had married or had children. They were children and grandchildren of only children.

“I’m afraid it’s time to get your affairs in order. Update your will,” the doctor was saying. His office had called late yesterday afternoon and asked Walter to come in the next morning. The doctor wanted to discuss the results of recent tests in person. Walter knew what that meant. The doctor wasn’t going to congratulate him on a healthy lifestyle for a seventy-seven-year-old. No, Walter assumed, the doctor was most likely going to tell him not to do any Christmas shopping for the holiday two months away. He’d made the appointment because the pain that had started in his lower back some weeks ago had spread and become unbearable.

Still he was taken aback at the doctor’s words and blurted out, “I don’t have a will. No relatives. No point.” READ MORE

Passport to Crime

Travelers' Rest

by Michael Berg

The flight from Amsterdam to Corfu had landed half an hour ago, but Nikos Boutsis hadn’t yet spotted Anke Boersma. Camera in hand, he watched the glass exit doors leading out from the Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport. Had he gotten the date wrong? It was August 12, the anniversary was August 13, Mrs. Boersma always flew down a day early. Perhaps she’d heard the news and decided not to—

No, there she was, in a stylish pantsuit and high heels, decorated with jewelry, wearing sunglasses that covered the upper half of her face. A skycap struggled along behind her with two large suitcases.

Nikos raised his camera to his eye.

“No!” she cried, before he could press the shutter. “No pictures!”

He lowered the camera and handed her his card. “We exchanged e-mails,” he said apologetically. “I’m with Enimerosi, the English-language newspaper.”

She removed her sunglasses and studied the card, frowning.

“You’re a reporter?” The question sounded skeptical.

“Yes,” he said, “and photographer.” He laughed. “It’s a small paper.”

She sighed, already regretting their prearranged interview. “Have we met before, Mr.—” she read his name from the card “—Mr. Boutsis?” READ MORE

Department of First Stories

The Workaholic

by N. W. Barcus

Cody once said to me, “Jane, if I learn one more Web language my head will explode,” so when I found him lying in the parking garage with a puddle of blood around his head, for one second I thought it was a prank. Corn starch and food coloring. If something’s too horrible to comprehend, you’re allowed a moment of stupidity, stupid because Cody would never stage such a thing. Cody was one of the few programmers I knew whose humor wasn’t stuck in middle school.

It wasn’t a prank. No, I told the police, I didn’t know of any enemies. No, he’d never talked about problems with anyone. There were people at my software start-up I wanted to kill sometimes (I didn’t mention that to the police), but not Cody. He was the last person in the office I’d have predicted to be shot, more unlikely than our janitor, a fierce-looking Romanian immigrant who looked in my trash every night (I was always working when she came in) like I should be hanged for my wasteful ways.
READ MORE

Reviews

The Jury Box 

by Steve Steinbock

Translation is tricky business. No sentence in one language can have an exact equivalent in another. Idiomatic phrases lose their meaning when translated, and what sounds normal in one language may be awkward or incomprehensible in another. Culture-based speech patterns, narrative styles, and nuances make a translator’s job difficult, constantly trying to find the balance between staying faithful to the original and producing a translation that readers can understand, let alone appreciate. In this installment of The Jury Box, I lead off with several mysteries that have been rendered from other languages into English. READ MORE

 
 

Blog Bytes

by Kristopher Zgorski

Dead Darlings (https://deaddarlings.com) is an author collective that has a contributor list that runs to fifty-plus writers over the years, with about fifteen authors active at any one time. Named after the bittersweet writing-advice aphorism “kill your darlings,” this blog celebrates the novel from conception to revision to publication and beyond. This website specializes in author interviews—heavily, but not exclusively, crime writers—and those discussions cover a wide range of writing-related topics, in addition to specifics about the most recent book release from each interviewee. Other occasional posts can range in subject from writing inspirations and prompts to book recommendations and trending topics (such as Hygge). Finally, their page of links and resources is definitely worth checking out.  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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