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Current Issue Highlights

March/April 2023

Spring is coming, but the March/April 2023 issue of EQMM offers some chills as well as thrills. National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates’s “The Phlebotomist” and Marjolein van der Gaag’s “Beneath the Surface” tap into archetypal fears; David Dean revisits a classic horror tale from the point of view of “Mrs. Hyde,” and in “The Sleeper of Coldwreath” by Tom Mead, a sceptical academic teams up with his housekeeper to investigate claims of a haunting.

Physical chill envelopes the scene in “Snowbound,” a noir thriller by Brendan DuBois, and in the action-packed “Midnight Run” by L.S. Kunz (Department of First Stories). But for those longing for spring’s warmth, there’s “Mushrooming With Murray” by Karen Abrahamson, “The Balance of Some Things” by Sacha Bissonette, in which a vacation cabin is opened for the season, and “Drinking in the Afternoon” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in which a health-care worker escapes the COVID-19 pandemic but encounters intrigue in the hot Southwest.

Family ties bring things to breaking points in “Shame the Devil” by Joseph Goodrich, “The Secret Sister” by Doug Allyn, “Game Four” by Travis Kennedy (Black Mask department), and “The Eye” by Savio Pham (Department of First Stories). Several other stories stand out for the experimental manner in which they’re told: “Carver [and] (Company)” by Mike McHone, in which voices in a P.I.’s head become characters in the story; “What You Know, What I Know” by Michael Kardos, in which disconnected observers stumble on bits of information that could bring down a burglary ring; “Meth” by Terena Bell, whose narrator reflects on a crime he doesn’t want to commit, and “Bad Boy” by Michael Wiley, a dark tale told in verse.

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Mrs. Hyde
by David Dean

“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”

—Robert Louis Stevenson,
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

“How was this delivered, Owens?” asked Dr. Beckett Marchland, turning the envelope round in his hands for any sign of a postmark or return address.

“By a surly and unclean boy, sir,” Owens answered the slender younger man in whose bachelor home he was employed. READ MORE

The Phlebotomist
by Joyce Carol Oates

Outside the medical clinic, a soft explosion of (blinding) light. The sky had been overcast when she’d entered the building two hours before, now she fumbled to put on dark glasses. Her eyes felt raw and moist as newly cracked eggs.

For a moment she was disoriented. As if she’d been inside the featureless beige brick building for an incalculable period of time. Had she left something behind in the waiting room? In the oncologist’s office? She rummaged in her handbag. Had she lost her keys? Her cell phone?

As so often in this past year she searched frantically in her handbag to reassure herself that she hadn’t misplaced keys, cell phone, wallet . . . No: She had not. READ MORE


Beneath the Surface
by Marjolein van der Gaag

Translated from the Dutch by Josh Pachter
The air, heavy and humid, wraps around Dorien like a clammy blanket. It’s almost unbearable, worse than a sauna. She climbs into the bleachers in bare feet and pulls off her sweater. Even in just a T-shirt, she’s perspiring, moisture pooling at the small of her back. Judging only by the temperature, you’d think you were in some subtropical swimming hole, but that’s the only similarity. This indoor pool, where her daughter Isabel takes a swimming lesson every Friday afternoon, is bare and basic. No diving board, no slide, none of that. Just a pool, twenty-five meters long, barely big enough for the children to meet the requirements for their official swimming certificate. READ MORE


Game Four
by Travis Kennedy

On Nicholas Torino’s last day in Las Vegas, he saw a man fly.

Years later, he would remember it fondly, an act of otherwordly heroism that on some sub- conscious level probably inspired Nicholas to do what he did a few hours later. At the time, though, it was just a thrilling moment in an otherwise crappy day, not unlike any of the other shitty days since his father dragged him across the country from New Jersey two years earlier. READ MORE


The Eye
by Savio Pham

The professor knew he should have kept his distance, let sleeping dogs lie, but he couldn’t help himself. So one day, his nostrils full of the sweet reek of decaying leaves, he drove to her house, a small orange and brown colonial, and knocked on her maroon door with the half-dangling copper knocker. When she answered, he had a sweat-breaking urge to run. But he stood his ground, as steady as his shaky legs would allow him, and addressed her with a quavering warmth in his gaze, seeing the woman he was once married to in the doorway looking grayer, slightly heavier, but more or less how he expected. She stood there saying nothing, a few crinkly strands of her hair stirred by a tapping breeze. READ MORE


Jury Box
by Steve Steinbock

Splitting detective novels into the subgroups “cozy” and “hardboiled” is convenient, but it’s artificial and hardly precise. Is it the presence of violence and four-letter words that makes a book “hardboiled”? If so, most contemporary fiction could be labeled as such. And what makes a “cozy” book so cozy? The country-village setting and the personality of the hero? The plot structure with its elaborate parlor-room denouement? I’ve chosen books this month that demonstrate how arbitrary and artificial these categories can be and at the same time how richly colorful and varied the mystery genre is. None demonstrate this as well as Louise Penny’s series set in the Quebec village of Three Pines, now the basis for an Amazon Prime TV series starring Alfred Molina as Inspector Armand Gamache. READ MORE

Blog Bytes
by Kristopher Zgorski

The Washington Independent Review of Books (, affectionately known as The Independent, is an established nonprofit website focused on spreading the love of literature through book reviews and other book-related content. They have new content every day, provided by their large contingent of creators, with various links to the world of writing. Unlike many websites, they do not specialize in one particular genre, so The Independent is a great way to discover what books are in the zeitgeist from disciplines one is less familiar with, while the use of linked tags does allow for drilling down into more coordinated areas based on subgenres. Their features tab will take fans to interviews, postings about book news, or essays on timely subject matter that will appeal to anyone living a literary lifestyle. 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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