The July/August 2020 EQMM has us thinking about the powers that be—the forces that are behind mystery, crime, and everyday life. Robert L. Fish Memorial Award winner E. Gabriel Flores introduces one of these forces, “Mala Suerte” (bad luck), and other characters feel the energy of bad-luck mixups in “The Scourging of Jimmy Blake” by David Dean, “Manic Monday” by Barbara Baraldi, and “Ending It All” by A.J. Wright.
Meanwhile, a young man is unlucky in his choice of part-time job in “The Death and Carnage Boy” by Steve Hockensmith, and bait-and-switch identities affect the outcome of two procedurals: “The Harder They Fall” by John Lantigua and “There Was an Old Woman . . .” by Peter Turnbull.
Sometimes a force seems like magic, but there’s something else behind the trickery, such as in “The Indian Rope Trick” by Tom Mead and two other impossible-crime tales: “The King’s Gambit” by S.A. Cosby, set in an art gallery, and “A Murder at Morehead Mews” by G.M. Malliet, a locked-room murder mystery set at an English manor house. That setting is echoed in an untraditional way in David Bridge’s haunting fiction debut “Feral Flesh.”
The natural world is a powerful entity, as we see in “The Thunderstorm” by Iris Hockaday from the Department of First Stories. And characters take on almost superherolike qualities in “The Recipe Box” by Claire Ortalda, “Mary Poppins Didn’t Have Tattoos” by Stacy Woodson, and “That Which Is True” by Jacqueline Freimor.
Love, whether it’s young lust, a marriage of comfort, or family ties proves powerful in “Midsummer’s Night” by Kevin Egan, “Of Arms and Women I Sing” by Sheila Kohler, and “Rendezvous Time” by Brendan DuBois.
And Joseph Goodrich takes us on another trip of misadventure and luck (or lack thereof) from the lecture notes of Manfred B. Lee, this time outlining the birth of Ellery Queen. We think you’ll be blown away by the force of this compelling fiction!
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by Steve Hockensmith
Monday, December 31
Gas Leak Wipes Out Morgantown Family
The headline stared up at Paul as he knelt in the garage. A family stared up at him too. A mom, a dad, and a boy Paul’s age, all in shorts and T-shirts, at a picnic table, smiling.
Once they’d been just another family in the park. Now they were news.
Being news is never a good thing. Paul knew that from experience.
He folded the left side of the newspaper over so that it blotted out the parents.
“Like this, right?” he said. He folded the right side over, and the boy disappeared too. “Then this?”
The newspaper was now a tube about a foot long. Paul held it up to show the older kid hovering behind him.
“Got it on the first try,” said Dirk. He took another newspaper off the stack on the garage floor and plopped it in front of Paul. “Now do that fifty-four more times. Then the really crappy part starts.”
Dirk was right. The folding wasn’t that bad, though the garage was so cold Paul could see his breath, and ink from the newspapers smudged his numbing fingers. It was when he got up and opened the garage door that he knew, rather than suspected, that his first job was going to suck. READ MORE
by Stacy Woodson
Marcella knew agreeing to watch her niece had been a bad idea. She was good at fixing engines, but fixing kid issues—not so much.
“It’s only six months. How bad could it be?” Marcella tried, hoping logic would work with an eight-year-old.
“It’s only six months, this time,” Lucy said, her words muffled behind the door. She’d managed to squeeze herself into a linen cabinet in the master bathroom, in an effort to hide from school, life—something. Marcella wasn’t sure the exact reason, except that her mother’s recent deployment to Afghanistan was part of it.
“At least open the door, kiddo.” Marcella’s eyes drifted to the mint-green tile above the bathroom sink, and she remembered the brake job on the mint-green Maverick at the garage. If this continued much longer, she’d be late for work and her niece would be late for school.
Her niece sniffled. Then finally, she pushed the door open. Her legs were tucked to her chest. The Denim to Diamonds Barbie Doll, a doll that once belonged to Lucy’s mother, was clutched in her hand. READ MORE
Passport to Crime
by Barbara Baraldi
The view of Milan from my cube is breathtaking, thanks to the Japanese architect with the unpronounceable name who designed the glass-and-metal skyscraper that has been my second home for the past three years. In fact, I spend more time here than in my apartment. I work for an advertising agency, and Matilde Scalandra, who owns the place, has a motto she never lets us forget: To create the best tomorrow, you have to live the best today.
She pushes us never to procrastinate, so we all work insane hours in a competitive environment where we have to watch our backs at every moment.
Is that really “working to live”? Or is it more a case of “living to work”?
For Leonardo Mondelli, it’s definitely the latter. He’s athletic, tanned year round, arrogant. Rumor has it he and Matilde are having an affair. He showed up here one day in a Ferragamo suit, with an impressive list of clients from his previous agency in hand. Within a couple of months, he was Matilde’s right-hand man, ensconsed in a choice private office. He orders us cube-farmers around as if he’s a medieval lord and we’re his vassals, tyrannizes those who’ve been here the longest, never misses a chance to harass an intern with inappropriate comments. READ MORE
Department of First Stories
by David Bridge
Something felt off the moment Bearbark crossed the threshold.
He had never liked these country mansions, and he didn’t think Upper Redmore Estate was going to do anything to change his mind. All the same, he hoped the uneasiness was merely his reaction to the house itself and not something more sinister.
The air in the entrance hall smelled of limestone and old leather. Dust rose in golden clouds. The black-and-white marble tiles beneath his feet made him feel like a pawn on a chessboard. Although it was an unseasonably warm November day, it was colder inside than out. Over his shoulder, through the gigantic, iron-studded oak door he had left open on his heels, he heard the taxi tires crunching back down the mile-long gravel driveway.
He was all alone now.
And he was really doing this.
The taxi driver had sighed when Bearbark had flagged him down at the train station and told him where he wanted to go. There would be no chance of the driver picking up a fare on his way back into town. As far as Bearbark could tell, the nearest settlement was Linloave Village, which they had passed through about five miles back. READ MORE
by Steve Steinbock
Only two years after the debut of Ellery Queen with The Roman Hat Mystery (1929), another formidable Q appeared on the scene. The two bylines (EQ and Q. Patrick) have several things in common: they were faithful to the fair-play rules established in the Golden Age of Detection; they were collaborations, EQ of cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, Patrick usually of Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler; both teams employed additional joint pseudonyms, Dannay/Lee as Barnaby Ross, Webb/Wheeler as Patrick Quentin and Jonathan Stagge; and both teams sometimes involved other writers. Queen employed third collaborators on some late novels, ghost writers on paperback originals and juveniles. Webb wrote alone or with one of two female collaborators before joining forces with Wheeler, who wrote the last few Quentin titles alone after Webb’s retirement. Wheeler also enjoyed success as a Broadway playwright, most notably as Stephen Sondheim’s librettist on the criminous Sweeney Todd and other musicals. READ MORE
by Kristopher Zgorski
Sue Trowbridge’s The Saturday Reader (https://saturdayreader.wordpress.com) is exactly what its name promises—a new post every Saturday. These posts are book reviews, so you can count on fifty-two reviews a year (roughly) from Sue. While many of these are crime-fiction related, Sue covers a wide range of other genres as well. Basically, whatever suits her fancy at the time. The reviews are always well written and informative, mostly positive, and timely. The content here stretches back to January 2016, so new followers have plenty of reviews to catch up on. Sue is also a webpage designer, so there is a handy link to her business page for that purpose which might be useful to authors looking to update their web presence. 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