Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: "The Untreed Detectives" edited by J. Alan Hartman

After a short introduction to the book by, publisher J. Alan Hartman, it is on to the twelve short stories. Some are written by names you may recognize. Others by names that are unfamiliar to you. All authors involved have weaved a complex tale very worthy of their inclusion in The Untreed Detectives anthology released last year.

Kara L. Barney leads things off with “A Knife in the Dark.” This story is set in the time before Sherlock became legendary. Watson has been injured by a killer as this story opens and Mrs. Hudson is urgently needed to save his life. She will also need to do far more then stitch Watson's stab wounds in order to bring this case to be a successful conclusion.

Paula and Mitexi run the uniquely named PMS Private Investigations in “Angus Wants a Peanut” by Amber Rochelle Gillet. According to Mitexi, the two have to be in Lilli Pad Park at 11m by the statue of the bull frog to meet a Mr. Ryan Majors. He insists on meeting there and won't discuss what he requires until that time. After the very serious previous story, this occasionally amusing tale is nice chance of pace. Mr. Ryan as well as his case are quite surprise.

Jessie Schroeder has moved back to her small town of Riverport in the wake of a brutal divorce. She has resumed writing while moving on with her life. In “Breathing Under Water” by Janet Majerus, Jessie has traveled to La Cumbre, New Mexico, to teach a writing workshop for her friend Sharon. Fortunately for her she won’t be the only instructor. The small workshop of ten students in this mountainous location in northern New Mexico is going to be interesting. She had needed a break from home on many levels, but this is not what she had intended at all in this serious story.

“Dessie's Jaded Past” by Lesley A. Diehl comes next. Like Jessie in the story before this one, Kaitlin Singer is starting over after her divorce. She has come home to the Catskill Mountains to write children's books and get on with life. Her plans for solitude have been interrupted as Mary Jane and her son, Jeremy, have moved in with her. So too has their potbellied pig, Desdemona. She has helped capture the killer of the newspaper's advice columnist and will play a vital role again in this tale.

Known for his book In Dog We Trust and others, author Neil Plakcy contributes “Dog Is in the Details” next. Rochester, a two year old Golden Retriever, helps Steve Levitan not only find his father's sport jacket, but how to deal with some painful aspects of the past.

Halloween in Philadelphia is the setting for “Faint Heart” by Gillian Roberts. For Amanda Pepper, a teacher who should be working on the essays of her seniors, she is instead thinking about how the magic of Halloween isn't around anymore. That is until Rosalie Tucker, new to the faculty, comes into the lounge talking about the scary gorilla outside in the square across the street. Something may have been out there, but it is Halloween and there are private school students to teach. Soon there will be a murder case to solve.

Imogene Duckworthy has been solving cases since she was a child. We see a little bit of that childhood here in “Immy Goes to the Dogs” by Kaye George. It began near her home of Saltlick, Texas when she pet sat Mrs. Yarbrough's two Cocker Spaniels. It is the summer and Immy is supposed to let out Sweetums and Tweetums so they can do their business and get them back into the house. Should have been a simple deal, but there were complications.

If you don't like clowns you probably won't like a story where clowns are an actual species. In “Scandalous Silence” by Whit Howland, not only are clowns a species they bleed makeup and not blood. Cheating happens on that world just like they do here and Huey Dusk’s latest case is about somebody cheating on somebody. It is a dark and twisted world and Huey travels the mean streets of Kermisberg doing what he needs to do to make a buck. At least the clown gangs and mime syndicates don't exist anymore and one can get Bubble Gum Whiskey.

Diana Andrews is being asked by Detective Breitwieser if she knows anything about a certain guy as “Split the Difference” by Albert Tucher begins. She does not know him, but she knows of him. As a prostitute she knows to stay well away from the man known as “The Baker.” The detective wants her help and she really has no choice.

Instead of sitting in a car conducting surveillance on a cheater, P. I. Nathaniel P. Osgood III works cases involving nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters. In “The Cinderella Caper” by Herschel Cozine we learn the real truth about that tramp Cinderella and lots of other things in this occasionally amusing tale.

P. I. Guillermo Lombardo is at work in “The Wrong Move” by Rodolfo Pena. Chess, a complicated case, and Mexico City combine well here in a tale that is part mystery and part thriller. Not all chess games are on boards.

“The Trident Caper” by Wade J. McMahan is the final story and features private detective Richard Dick in a mystery tale that has paranormal elements as well as fantasy elements. Interrupting Dick's chess game with Percy (a ghost) she walked into his Chicago office. Great body, great legs, but the hair is green. She says her name is “Coral” and has no last name as the merpeople don't have them. Coral is a mermaid who is on a long trip from home looking for more than her father's treasure chest. The chest does not matter for her, but they also took her father's golden trident and she wants that back.

A section of author bios brings the book to a close.

This is an interesting anthology of twelve stories where each one contains a mystery of some type. Not all mysteries have a murder case and several that do not are contained here in The Untreed Detectives. The stories fluctuate widely in tone as some are light hearted and even playful while others are far more serious. Most of the tales here are short stories featuring series characters from novels which gives readers an excellent way to sample various author's works. It is an interesting smorgasbord of cases that will provide plenty of good reading.

The Untreed Detectives
Edited by J. Alan Hartman
Untreed Reads Publishing
December 2013
160 Pages

Material was supplied in the form of a PDF by the editor some time ago in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2014

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