Greet the season in EQMM tradition with a stocking full of stories and a celebration of Sherlock Holmes’s Twelfth Night birthday. Our January/February issue sets a yuletide tone with tales by Matthew Wilson (the timely “The Wretched Strangers”), Andrew Welsh-Huggins (“Home for the Holidays,” starring P.I. Andy Hayes), Bonnie Hearn Hill (“Feliz Navidead”), and Fei Wu (“Beijingle All the Way,” a puzzler in translation).
Terence Faherty is back with a new Holmes parody from the lost manuscripts of Dr. Watson (see “The Yellow Face”), and Josh Pachter treats us to another meeting of The Puzzle Club (“The Adventure of the Red Circles”).
Other characters—such as an insurance investigator in Kieran Shea’s “Paying It Off” and a 1960s P.I. in Marilyn Todd’s “Nights in White Satin”—encounter more than they wish for at the end of their trails, as does an observant cleaner in Christine Poulson’s “Because You’re Worth It” and an unlucky vacationgoer in Kelston Gunn Cowling’s “Mr. Majestyk,” from the Department of First Stories.
Justice is a personal endeavor in the nostalgic “Edie” by Merrilee Robson, the adventuresome “Crow’s Nest” by John M. Floyd, the gritty “Now Hiring Nasty Girlz” by Toni L.P. Kelner, and the twisty “Stroke of Luck” by Bill Pronzini.
Police detectives feature in Peter Turnbull’s “The Banks of the Ouse” and Pat Black’s “The Concrete Pillow”—in which the area nightlife holds danger—and in Mike McHone’s “A Drive-by on Chalmers Road?”, where a detective looks into the injury of her uncle, a Santa Claus moonlighter.
Speaking of family, it’s the time of year to honor them—and they certainly mix things up in “The Summer Uncle Cat Came to Stay” by Leslie Elman, “Frogman” by Mark SaFranko, “Used to Be” by Twist Phelan, and “The Dragonfly” by B.A. Paul, from the Department of First Stories.
Topping the tree are a Sherlockian The Jury Box installment and the gift of a new Deborah Knott story by Margaret Maron (“By a Hair”). You can continue the Sherlock Holmes celebration online with our January and February “Stranger Than Fiction” installments here on the website. Surprise yourself and someone else with EQMM!
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by Matthew Wilson
Telling the truth to Kassandra Prexler could get you killed.
Say you are a farm laborer from Nigeria. All the years of planting and harvesting peanuts and beans, and you have nothing to show for it, only the next meal or a trinket from the market—an umbrella for the rains, a wrist watch with numbers that glow blue in the night. So one day you meet a man in Konduga, and he says he knows a man like you who is now in Germany. And this man he knows now cleans the streets in a beautiful city, where the towers hold clocks and the clocks hold dolls that turn in a circle to dance on the chime of every hour. He asks if you know how to use a broom, and if your wife can use a toilet brush. In this city there are hotels like palaces, he says, and there are many toilets and not enough people to clean them. Forget that you have never seen a flush toilet, that your wife has never held a toilet brush. Tell this man yes, of course, my wife can use a toilet brush. And all the money you make in Germany together, this man in the market says, would pay for your roof and would feed you, and some you could send home to your father with the cane and to your mother-in-law with the pain in her hands. Enough money to feed them yams and cassava for all the year. And then when Kassandra Prexler asks you why you have come to Germany, you tell her this story, about your job turning the earth for someone else to make not enough to keep the hunger away, and how you have come to do the dirty jobs no one wants. You do not lie like you have about the toilet brush to the man in Konduga, and she will believe you because you are telling the truth. And then she will send you back to Nigeria. READ MORE
by Terence Faherty
Sherlock Holmes was a man who seldom took a walk unless he was paid to take it or unless that walk had at its terminus a pub. In the latter case, however, he was sometimes known to jog briskly. And, to be fair, in pursuit of a fee he was indefatigable. But exercise for its own sake held no attractions for him.
Early one spring day, however, Holmes found his normal sources of diversion unavailable. No case had presented itself, the papers were rehashing their meager copy, and his beloved banjo was off being revarnished. So I was able to prevail upon the detective to accompany me on a bird-watching excursion. It was on just such a day that the new crop of nannies and nurses would be out in the parks, wheeling their young charges about and perhaps showing a bit of ankle when they paused to discreetly adjust a shoe button.
After two hours, we returned to Baker Street. At the front door, we were met by the bootblack (page?) who hung about Mrs. Hudson’s establishment. The urchin informed Holmes that a client had called, stomped about the sitting room for a time, and then left.
My friend fixed me with a glare he usually reserved for barmen who handed him a too-foamy pint. “This is what comes of your ‘bird-watching,’ Doctor. My client is even now telling his woes to one of my rivals.”
Passport to Crime
by Fei Wu
From the fortieth floor, the city beyond the huge glass windows of my office lies shrouded in snow. Far beneath my feet, the taillights of the vehicles on the East Second Ring Road trace intricate red lines, like wounds in the night.
Today is my how-manyth consecutive day of working overtime, from early morning till ten p.m. or later. They say that Beijing’s white-collar workers devote plenty of time to earning their pay but have little time left over to spend it. As a drone in the new-media industry, I have to agree. READ MORE
Department of First Stories
by B. A. Paul
Go fish was the second impulse that flashed through my brain after I received the news. And that’s the impulse I acted on. Not the first one. Not yet.
Now, I sit here on the bank feeling the gentle tug of the line, not caring if the fish is stealing my bait nibble by nibble.
Because my cousin’s dead. And I’m lost. Alone.
A warm breeze blows a strand of hair against my cheek and it sticks there. In the tears. The breeze scoots the container of night crawlers off the top of the tackle box. An overeager fellow slithers and works his way out of the container’s loose black dirt, likely disappointed that his escape route is inch after miserable inch of solid brown earth.
There’s nowhere to go. Nowhere to tunnel when you’re a lowly worm on rock-hard ground. He may as well try to burrow into asphalt. READ MORE
by Steve Steinbock
Happy Birthday Sherlock Holmes! By all accounts, the Great Detective was born on January 6, 1854, making him 166 years old this year. To celebrate, we bring you a Baker Street Dozen books for your consideration. We begin with four Sherlockian novels and fill out the column with other new titles, including several books set in Victorian and Edwardian England. READ MORE
by Kristopher Zgorski
Since this is the January/February issue of EQMM, it is a great time to mention largehearted boy (http://blog.largeheartedboy.com), the blog run by David Gutowski. You might wonder why, so I will explain. At the end of each year, David compiles what is most likely the definitive list of links to “Best Of” book coverage for the previous year. He includes lists made by a huge array of sites, venues, publications, and more. Lists you didn’t even know existed. So, as the new year starts, if you want to know what the most cited favorite books of 2019 were, largehearted boyis the place to go. That said, this blog also posts great content all year long; the most interesting examples are the playlists he has authors compile to highlight their most recent book releases. This intersection of music and literature is where David excels. It is also a great place to check news links—there is bound to be something you would otherwise have missed. READ MORE
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