The September/October issues of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine are, as always, filled with super collections of crime fiction of across the wide playing field of crime fiction. It’s always hard to pick stories to highlight—I could almost tape up the tables of contents and throw darts—but here are a few, limiting myself to three each. First from AHMM:
- “My Two-Legs” by Melissa Yi – this charming story is about a clever dog who helps solve the crime when his “two-legs” (a young man named Sunil) goes missing. I found the way Yi translates doggie behavior into the narrative of the story simply brilliant.
- “When the Dams Break” by James A. Hearn, set in hill country, Texas, shows that even the cleverest Lone Star politician will eventually have to confront his past.
- “Peril in Pasadena” by Edith Maxwell is a fem-fest, with two women PIs, a female scientist victim, and a demonstration of the perils of treating a cleaning woman like she’s invisible. All in the context of the leadup to the Rose Parade.
Ellery Queen also offers up a nice diversity, including:
- “The Wraith of Bunker Hill” by Paul D. Marks—probably his last published story before his untimely death, it combines Hollywood lore with an intriguing con game involving present-day murders and the Black Dahlia legend.
- “The Light on the Lagoon: by Canadian author Elizabeth Elwood—it’s never too soon to start teaching the younger generation about the Hitchcock canon.
- “The Kindness of Strangers” by Twist Phelan—the author perfectly captures the self-absorption and insecurities of adolescent girls that would allow this calamity to unfold—and lives up to her own name here.
Is it summer and the competition of outdoor activities that cause attention spans to dwindle and make a good collection of short stories extra appealing? Truthfully, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine are never out of season. Here are some highlights from their summer issues.
“Serving Process” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – anyone who’d save a litter of wet, half-starved and mewling kittens is a hero in my book
“The Secret Sharer” by W. Edward Blain – very clever and satisfying tale, and a nice example of how fiction can reflect the realities of covid yet not be about covid
“Powerball” by Jack Bunker – Yes, playing the lottery is a mug’s game, yet some people are just better players than others. In light of last week’s $1.337 billion Mega Millions jackpot IRL, this story should have a big audience!
“Storm Warning” by Dana Haynes is another table-turning tale that makes you feel that, sometimes, bad deeds work out exactly right!
And in AHMM:
“Death Will Take the High Line by Elizabeth Zelvin – Points to her for tackling a story that plunges right into gender identity issues without becoming polemical.
“The Conversation Killer” by Al Tucher – in lushly described Hawa`i, a rookie female police officer makes a big mistake.
“The Man Who Went Down Under” by Alexis Stefanovich-Thomson won the 15th annual Black Orchid Novella Award contest. The search for a missing diamond involves quite a few characters, notably, a young P.I.’s interfering and none-too-impressed mother.
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Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine both included some stellar stories in their March/April issues. Lots to like in the varied offerings of both publicationss.
Here are some of my favorites from EQMM:
- Mat Coward’s comic adventure “Morbid Phenomena of the Most Varied Kind” – It’s hard not to like a story that begins “If you were thinking of assassinating a politician, my main advice would be don’t bother—they keep spares.”
- Lou Manfredo’s “Sundown” is a police procedural (always a favorite subgenre) that fascinated me as reader and writer with its insightful look at how police detectives follow a thread and keep following it, just in case
- I chuckled at Anna Scotti’s “Schrödinger, Cat” in which a man makes the mistake of taking his girlfriend’s faith in him for granted
And from AHMM:
- In “Red Flag” by Gregory Fallis deals with the disconnect between knowing a person’s perceived violent tendencies are raising red flags and the system’s inability to do anything about it. Quite cleverly, too
- You can hear the howling wind and feel the lashing rains in Michael A. Black’s “Waiting for Godot,” when a hurricane provides cover for crime
- For a little paranormal adventure, there was Merrilee Robson’s delightful “Tired of Bath,” which includes a memorable encounter with the ghost of Jane Austen
Finally, I read Paris Noir: The Suburbs, an anthology of short stories in the Akashic Books Noir Series. I’m pretty open-minded, but did not like this one. Too dreary.