Lesa's Book Critiques: HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Friday, December 31, 2021
Beneath the Stains of Time: Sable Messenger (1947) by Francis Vivian
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas
Happiness Is A Book: FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE DISHONEST MURDERER BY FRANCES AND RICHARD LOCKRIDGE
Happiness Is A Book: FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE DISHONEST MURDERER BY FRANCES AND RICHARD LOCKRIDGE
FFB Review: Shot To Death: 31 Stories of Nefarious New England by Stephen D. Rogers
From the massive archive ….
Reviewing anthologies and collections is always tough. A novel can lag in spots providing an uneven and yet enjoyable read. That same effect can happen in an anthology or collection where not every story is going to work well for a particular person. Then there is the fact that space limitations often prevent the reviewer from ever going into any depth on all the stories. These situations and others make reviewing such books problematic.
At the same time, readers are asking more and more for anthologies and collections. Subsequently, the last couple of years there has been a surge in publication of anthologies and collections. Most collections and anthologies pass pass right on by due to time constraints. However, when this was made available for review by Stephen D. Rogers, it seemed like one that should be a good book.
My expectations were met with a few personal favorites being:
“C.O.D.” points out that damaging a mailbox is both a federal crime and a personal offense with repercussions for all in the area.
“Fill It with the Cheapest” isn’t just about the gas, the road trip, or the unnamed driver in a story that isn’t clear until the very end.
Twists are guaranteed in this book and that certainly is also the case in “Last Call.” Training the new employee can come back to get you in not so obvious ways.
“One-Eyed Jacks” blends a unique drinking game, several friends with secrets, and a need for final justice.
Justice along with making things right are the twin themes of “Smoking Gun” where a mother simply has no more choices.
While the New England settings of these tales is often vague or not defined at all, meaning the tales could be located anywhere, the sense of desperation comes through clearly in each one. Whether told from the perspective of the good cop, the bad cop, the petty thief, the hard working parent, or the many other character choices the author uses in each story, the sense of immense desperation comes through in every single case. Often the reader is left with the feeling that characters involved never had a chance because everything always had been and always would be stacked against him or her.
While bodies and crimes abound in the collection, that sense of desperation makes this a good book that is not easy reading. These are stories that nestle under your skin like chiggers and don’t go away easily. The fact that they linger is a basic part of what makes a good writer and a good book.
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2010, 2011, 2013, 2021
Thursday, December 30, 2021
Lesa's Book Critiques: WHAT ARE YOU READING?
Bitter Tea and Mystery: Rules of Civility: Amor Towles
Favorite Books of 2021
Back in July, I told you of my four favorite books of the year to that point. Today as the year winds to a close, I give you more favorites. 15 books in all. Several books are series and I recommend reading in order. One is an anthology and the second one in the series is now out and in my eBook TBR pile.
As I said before, I remain very slow reading wise. Everything I do now is way slower and takes a lot more effort than it seemed to be just a few years ago when I had to juggle so much more as a husband, caregiver, dad, etc.
I am also back editing a little bit here and there while also working on a possible idea for an upcoming anthology that I was invited to submit to last night. Writing anything fiction wise is brutally hard now as I have not done any of that since the end of 2016. My mind is not working anything like it used to so the process now, for me, is liking trying to learn to ride a bike from scratch all over again.
Without further ado, I offer you eleven more reads on top of the previously four suggested reads for a grand total of 15 books for the year. The list includes two anthologies. The books selected refer my personal tastes, biases and all that jazz. I am not saying that these are the best books. I am stating that they were my favorites during the past year.
Building off of The Good Detective and The Evil Men Do is the third book in the series, A Good Kill. This read by John McMahon ties up some things that have been going on in this entire series. It begins with a school shooter in Fall Magnet Middle School and that means a full-scale response by the police department of Mason Falls, Georgia. P. T. Mason and his partner, Remy Morgan, arrive on campus to find one gunman holding three students and two teachers hostage. The hostages are being held in the art room. The read builds from there and goes far beyond a school shooting. The rest of my review from July can be read here.
Mickey Finn Vol. 1: 21st Century Noir, edited by Michael Bracken, is a dark read as one would expect. After all, as the title makes abundantly clear, this is an anthology of noir style short stories so one does not expect sweetness and light with sunshine and flowers with flying unicorns and rainbow kisses. That being said, some of these stories are very dark and disturbing. The kind of tales where you finish the story and you need to take a break for awhile before getting back to the read. The rest of my review from July can be found here.
Darkest Corners of Texas: An Al Quinn Novel by Russ Hall opens with Al Quinn working on his boat at Lake Travis. He would rather be on the water fishing, but the bilge pump had other ideas. Fergie is at the boat with him and is the first to spot the boat coming at high-speed right to their dock on what used to be a quiet and far less populated lake. But, urban sprawl out of Austin means a lot more houses, a lot more people, and many more visitors than the old days. The rest of my review from July can be read here.
It has been fifteen years since Ike
Randolph walked out of Coldwater State Penitentiary. He changed his life and
built a business. He has a good life now, but he is still a black man in
America with all that entails. Cops on the doorstep does not bode well. You can
read the rest of my August review of the incredible Razorblade Tears
by S. A. Cosby here.
A murder has happened again in the same areas as others as The Silenced Woman: A Violent Crime Investigations Team Mystery by Frederick Weisel begins. For Violent Crime Investigations (VCI) leader Eddie Mahler, the body on the bench in Spring Lake Park, Santa Rosa, California, is clearly yet another kill by a man he has been chasing for two years now. He knows the same guy has done it again and is sure of that fact. He could not prove it before and his marriage and his health has suffered greatly because of that fact. You can read the rest of my review from August here.
It is early September 2019 as Jordan's Branch: A Willie Black Novel by Howard Owen begins. Reporter Willie Black knew that Stick Davis has been dead for quite a while when he sees the body. More than half a dozen times somebody shot the man. Once someone had thoroughly through ventilated Stick David, he or she left, and now Willie Black has found the body. You can read my August review here.
After you read that, you should move in to the next book in the series. It is May 2020 as Monument: Willie Black Mystery Series by Howard Owen begins and just a few days after the death of an unarmed black man in police custody occurred in Minneapolis. There have been Black Lives Matter protests all across the county and that includes Richmond, Virginia, where reporter Willie Black has been on the story. A story that is expanding as the protests become increasingly violent. You can read the rest of my November review here.
Mick Hardin, an agent in the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), is back home in the Kentucky hills as The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt begins. Home on leave with a family problem that is not going to get fixed by drinking himself to sleep each night, he is at his grandfather’s place. That makes it easy for his sister, the new sheriff, to find him. You can read the rest of my August review here.
Painters Mill, Ohio, Police Chief Kate
Burkholder has responded to a lot of crime scenes. The one at room 9 of the
Willlowdell Motel as Fallen: A Kate Burkholder Novel by Linda
Castillo begins is one of the worst she has ever seen in her career. From the carnage,
it is clear that the woman was savagery beaten to death. It was some sort of
frenzied or overkill attack. Rachel Schwartz’s final moments were horrific. My
August review can be read here.
Former Charleston Police Officer Davis Reed is missing a woman and much of his life due to pills, alcohol, anger and anxiety issues. He has fled home for a change of scenery and an attempt to focus himself. For the next six months, he is living in a cabin in Cruso, North Carolina, with the intention of writing a book. The book is to be on the true story of the B-25 plane crash at nearby Cold Mountain. There were no survivors in the crash just after WWII. The fact that he has no experience writing, beyond police reports and whatever he did for his private detective gigs, does not deter him from the book writing plan. You can read the rest of my review of Graveyard Fields by Steven Tingle here.
City Problems: An Ed Runyon Mystery by Steve Goble takes several classic tropes and generates a compelling read. Ed Runyon left the NYPD after the search for a missing teenager ended in her brutal and savage murder. Haunted by his failure to save that girl from her torture and death, Runyon ended up in Ohio working for the Mifflin County Sheriff’s Department. You can read the rest of my review here.
There you have my list. I hope, if you read them, you enjoy the books.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: Waking Up White, Alexander Hamilton, Before She Disappeared, An Elderly Lady Must Not be Crossed
In Reference To Murder: Nonpareil Nonfiction
Jerry's House of Everything: SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY: MR. WRAY'S CASH BOX
Patti Abbott: Short Story Wednesday; "I'll Be Waiting" Raymond Chandler
Little Big Crimes Review: Born a Ramblin' Man by Michel Lee Garrett
Short Story Wednesday Review: Guilty Crime Story Magazine: Issue 2, Fall 2021
With the recent news that one can now preorder issue three currently scheduled to drop Sunday, I thought I would remind you today of this quality magazine with my review from back in September. You can also read my review of the first issue here.
Guilty Crime Story Magazine: Issue 2, Fall 2021, opens with “At Fury Crossing” by Brent Spencer. Hella, a homeless vet, put her military skills to work to help Cliff. It was a job and nothing more. Now as she watches him get increasingly agitated outside the hotel known as “The Smiling Orchid,” she realizes she may have to get much more involved than she would like in order to again save lives.
Harlan had a skill to separate people from their money. The problem was that he talked big, but nothing ever came of it. Now he has gone and fled town and left Madison White holding the debt in “Newfound Gap” by Adam Leeder. They can’t find Harlan. They can find her and her son, Jackson, and mean to collect the money. One way or another.
Ted has to die in “Matter of Conscience” by Marie Anderson. Nancy met him at her sister’s wedding. She has her reasons why he must die that slowly become clear.
Editor Brandon Barrows is up next with “Between Friends.” Mike is tending bar, a gambler, and in a world of trouble. He needs a miracle. He might have found it in Mr. Steinberg. Surely Nr. Steinberg, who has known him for years, will help once he explains his problem in enough detail.
Abby took the shot in “No Recoil” by M. E. Proctor. A man is dead. The reasons why are at the heart of short this tale.
“Learning To Dream” by Stanton McCaffery comes next where life sometimes goes in unexpected ways. Graduating along with some other folks in the class of 2000, life is tough. Things escalate way worse when cancer and then a brutal accident strike the characters in this dark tale where the dream might be an illusion.
Crooked cops Lafitte and Asimov have messed up a deal as “Them Cops” by Anthony Neil Smith begins. Time for some payback. To do that, our narrator first needs an untraceable gun.
The issue closes with a nonfiction piece, “American Nightmare: The Noir Roots of Sandman Mystery Theatre” by Anthony Perconti. The essay considers the reboot of the Golden Age hero, the Sandman, as he works in a noir style landscape in a city in the throes of the Great Depression. It is an interesting piece.
Guilty Crime Story Magazine issue 2, Fall 2021, is another interesting read as was the first one. This issue is darker in tone and consistently more noirish, no matter how you define noir, than the first one.
This issue also has several formatting errors in the way it presented on my iPad. Some sentences started with two or three words and then had the rest of the sentence on the next line. While somewhat distracting, it was not that big of an issue though it may very much irritate some readers.
Regardless of that, the issue is a good one and well worth your time. Interesting characters, often dark and complicated situations, combine together to create tales well worth reading.
I picked this up in early September to read and review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2021
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Mystery Tribune: 17 Best Crime, Mystery, and Thriller Books of January 2022
Beneath the Stains of Time: A Tough One to Lose (1972) by Tony Kenrick
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Tuesdays with Ambrea: The Witch’s Heart by Genevie Gornichec
Lesa's Book Critiques: THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP PRESENTS THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR 2021
The First Two Pages: “Fly Me to the Moon” by Lisa Q. Mathews
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 67 Calls for Submissions in January 2022 - Paying Markets
Review: Gated Prey by Lee Goldberg
As the third book in the series, Gated Prey, begins, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Detective Eve Ronin and her partner, Duncan Pavone, are working undercover out of a house in Calabasas. The house is a McMansion type of deal to fit their roles of beautiful trophy wife/girlfriend and rich old man. There have been numerous attacks on homeowners behind the gates of their exclusive communities so the undercover operation is important. Duncan, who is weeks away from retiring, plays his part to the hilt thanks to his do clothing and the walker he uses to shuffle around in public as he flashes cash. The plan is to get the take down the three-armed home invasion robbers who have been conducting their own increasingly violent redistribution of wealth campaign.
The plan works…and almost gets Eve and Duncan killed in the line of duty.
When the carnage stops and the smoke clears, Eve and Duncan soon realize that the failure of backup officers to arrive on time could have been far more than accidental. Being the youngest detective as well as how Eve goes about things could have had deadly consequences. That ongoing resentment and internal threat has not gone away either.
Then there is the case itself. Dead suspects tell no tales and Eve and Duncan are left still looking for answers regarding how the armed robbers came and went from gated communities, what they did with stuff they stole, and many other questions. It also becomes clear that these guys were working at the behest of at least one person who has yet to be identified.
Completely ignored on the book jacket copy is the second case which involves a fetal abduction. Called out on what appears to be a still birth due to a late term miscarriage, it soon becomes clear that something far more horrible is going on. Little can be said about this case without creating spoilers, but readers should be are aware of the topic as this will be triggering for some readers. Parts of this case was tough to read.
Overall, Gated Prey by Lee Goldberg is an enjoyable police procedural that continues to build on the foundation laid by Lost Hills and Bone Canyon. This remains a series that should be read in order. The complicated backstory to the Eve Ronin character as well as her previous actions in earlier cases are repeatedly referenced as this read moves forward. Not quite at the same level of the previous book as this one reads differently in an unexplainable way, Gated Prey by Lee Goldberg is still very much worth your time as is the series.
Make sure you read Lesa Holstine’s more descriptive review.
My reading copy in print format came from the Lochwood Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2021
Monday, December 27, 2021
Lesa's Book Critiques: ALL ABOUT ME! BY MEL BROOKS
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: A Gift From Bob Film
In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 54 Writing Contests in January 2022 - No entry fees
Markets and Jobs for Writers for 12/27/2021
Dru's Book Musing New Releases: Week of December 26, 2021
Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: Primary Storm by Brendan DuBois
Brendan DuBois is a talented author of mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. He’s written dozens of short stories as well as novels. His work has been awarded the Shamus three times, the Barry and the Derringer two times each, and nominated three times for the Edgar. Most recently he’s teamed up with James Patterson as co-author of three books.
DuBois introduced former Department of Defense analyst Lewis Cole in 1994 and has since produced 10 more titles about his adventures. After his DoD career Cole retired to the small town of Tyler Beach, New Hampshire, where he writes for a local magazine but he seems to become readily entangled in more complicated matters.
In Primary Storm (Minotaur, 2006) the presidential fever that strikes New Hampshire every four years is in full bloom. White House hopefuls swarm the small state and local journalists have access to them that media representatives elsewhere only dream about. When Lewis shows up for a speech by Senator Jackson Hale, by all accounts a strong contender for the nomination, he thinks he’s just there to look the candidate over but ends up being arrested for attempting to kill Hale when shots are fired during the rally and Cole’s revolver is found on the scene. Cole’s lawyer gets him out of jail but who is setting him up is a question that needs to be answered.
A well-written and engaging read on more than one level. I live in another part of the country that is also highly political, and I can attest to the accuracy of the election madness as it’s portrayed here. Telephone calls at all hours, flyers in the mailbox, door-to-door canvassers, and signs everywhere: on cars, in yards, along the streets. Overwhelming until the day after the polls, when it thankfully stops. The minor thread with the campaigner who just wants to go home resonated with me.
Cole has acquired a love interest in this book and the romance is woven into the investigation better than a number of stories I’ve read. Not only is the would-be killer well disguised, the motive is thoroughly hidden until the last few pages. Politicians make a lot of enemies! A good series to have on any mystery reader’s TBR list. Definitely bingeworthy.
· Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st Edition (September 19, 2006)
· Language: English
· Hardcover: 288 pages
· ISBN-10: 0312327331
· ISBN-13: 978-0312327330
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2021
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
Sunday, December 26, 2021
Lesa's Book Critiques: HOGFATHER BY TERRY PRATCHETT
SleuthSayers: The Advantage of Networking by R. T. Lawton
Beneath the Stains of Time: Murder in Retrospect: The Best and Worst of 2021
Saturday, December 25, 2021
Friday, December 24, 2021
The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers for 12/23/2021
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn
FFB Review: Spirit Of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire Story by Craig Johnson
With Christmas coming tomorrow, it seemed a good time to remind you of this very good seasonally appropriate read.
The Tuesday before Christmas brings snow, relative quiet, and no real plans for Sheriff Walt Longmire other than his annual rereading of A Christmas Carol. That is until the quiet dark haired woman toting a garment bag walked into his office. Eventually it becomes clear that she wants to see the former Sheriff, Lucian Connally. The woman claims to have something that she would like to return to him.
Lucian is living at the “Durant Home for Assisted Living” and could probably use a visit from somebody besides Sheriff Walt Longmire and Dog. Not only is the home’s television another victim of Lucian’s legendary temper having died by gunshot, the man is not in the best of moods because it is Christmas and he has been drinking quite a bit. He has no idea who the mystery woman is either until she says “Steamboat.”
What follows is an incredibly suspenseful flashback tale of a flight to save a child’s life against the odds---medical and environmental. On Christmas Eve in 1988 an aging WWII plane and a cast of locals including the recently retired Lucian and first year Sheriff Walt Longmire pulled off a Christmas miracle. Though readers can surmise from nearly the start that the dark haired woman was that child, there is plenty of suspense in how the flight happened and why she is back now.
While Spirit Of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire Story is a short book as it is a novella, it is a powerful and deeply moving book. Craig Johnson brings alive the storm, the people, and the history of a legendary aircraft in a way that few novelists could do. The resulting 160 page book might simply be the best thing the man has ever written.
You can also read Lesa Holstine's take on the book here.
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2013, 2017, 2021
Thursday, December 23, 2021
Happiness Is A Book: FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOK: CRIME FOR CHRISTMAS BY LESLEY EGAN
In Reference To Murder: Mystery Melange - Christmas Edition 12/23/2021
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Staff Picks: Favorite Christmas Movies and Specials
The Rap Sheet: Attention Grabbers for 12/23/2021
Lesa's Book Critiques: WHAT ARE YOU READING?
A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: 99¢ CHRISTMAS STORIES TO ADD CHEER!
Beneath the Stains of Time: The Finishing Stroke (1958) by Ellery Queen
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: My Mother She Killed Me, Living with Cannibals, Island that Dared, and I Take My Coffee Black
Guest Post: OUTSIDERS ARE POPULAR IN FICTION, MYTHS, AND OUR HISTORY by Lynn Hesse
Please welcome Lynn Hesse to the bog today....
OUTSIDERS ARE POPULAR IN FICTION, MYTHS, AND OUR HISTORY
Protagonists in American crime and mystery novels and film are usually outsiders. The moral fortitude we all hope to muster in a crisis is in reserve in our fictional heroes. The insurmountable mountain is climbable by our main character, whether it’s built on bureaucratic red tape, corruption, or violent street crime. True, the gray areas of discretion creep in and when justice isn’t served by our institutions, sometimes our main characters deliver their own brand of justice.
Texas Rangers, the 2001 western movie based on real life after the Civil War, which was directed by Steve Miner and starred Dylan McDermott, didn’t do well at the box office. Probably, the harsh justice doled out by McDermott’s character to most criminals without a trial disturbed the public’s comfort zone concerning what a “good guy” is. James Van Der Beek played a young ranger recruit that reminded Captain Leander McNelly he must conduct himself according to a higher standard.
There must be a code. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series is based on the premise that even a serial killer can balance the scales of justice by taking out the guilty, who should’ve been punished for heinous acts but weren’t. The reader or the viewer of the Showtime series overlooks or understands Dexter’s need to kill because he cleanses society of violent criminals. Many times, the wrongdoer appears as a valued, respectable member of the community, whereas Dexter is a sociopath with a learned code of behavior, a misfit with a high-functioning reclusive personality.
Clara Shannesy Blythe, the protagonist in my upcoming suspense novel, The Forty Knots Burn, is a con artist. She can tell a fortune or pull off an elaborate art heist of an Edward Hopper painting at a gallery opening. Clara charms her marks and uses illusion to promote the promise of good fortune or slight of hand to steal a masterpiece while their attention is directed elsewhere. She understands that charismatic people can make us believe anything is possible.
For example, Abraham Lincoln must have had a certain something to compel people to trust him. This heroic historical figure had an elongated build caused by Marfan syndrome, which made him stand out as different and prone to melancholy. A person from humble beginnings with mental health issues and physical restrictions can even be the President of the United States of America — or so his life or the myth surrounding his life promotes. It gives us hope.
Many myths revolve around the idea that the underdog should win. In principle we don’t like bullies. This feeling is not surprising because our country was founded by revolutionaries. We celebrate when the least favored team or person wins on any playing field. Even Santa Claus is a recluse living in the North Pole with his wife and elves. One might think in the beginning it took a while for the general public to grasp the idea of giving every child in the world a gift on Christmas Eve as economically and physically feasible by the jolly guy in a red suit. Of course, the 1923 poem “A Visit from St. Nicolas,” which later became “The Night Before Christmas” claimed by Clement Clarke Moore in 1837, furthered the myth in United States.
In contrast to the idea of the little guy winning the big prize is the human desire to blame others when we are hungry, afraid, or weary of poverty and isolation. We pick the groups unlike ourselves and deem them dirty or evil. We vent our anger on minorities. In fact, we may invent reasons to hate them. In The Forty Knots Burn, we see bias on both sides of the Roma and non-Roma cultures. Clara must come to terms with her own prejudices when her non-Roma mentor dies.
In this decade with social media, the truth hidden between the societal fringes is more complicated than in the past and affects the books being read. The term “prepper fiction” literature floats through the news in connection with the “redoubt movement” phenomenon; VICE #2, Episode 10, Land of The Free & Ethiopia’s War Within, documents this trend. In the first part of the exposé, citizens move to less populated states like northern Idaho to live with like-minded conservative people. Some would declare they have dropped out. However, journalist Vegas Tenold interviews a mother who hosts a popular podcast and lives in the Idaho wilderness with her family. She tells the reporter she is willing to go without a working toilet in lieu of gaining many freedoms. This idea of being an outsider or eluding restriction is part and parcel of the American mystique as exemplified in Walden or Civil Disobedience by transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. He might agree it’s not any wonder our fiction and film are full of characters portraying rogue individualists.
Whether a fiction writer, screenwriter, or historian we embrace our myths and tell our stories.
Lynn Hesse won the 2015 First Place Winner, Oak Tree Press, Cop Tales, for her mystery, Well of Rage. Her novel Another Kind of Hero was a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award and won the International Readers’ Chill Award in 2021. Her short story “Jewel’s Hell” was published September 2019 in Me Too Short Stories: An Anthology by Level Best Books and edited by Elizabeth Zelvin. Her short story “Bitter Love” was accepted for publication in Crimeucopia’s November issue 2021 for Murderous Ink Press, United Kingdom.
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Lesa's Book Critiques: MRS. CLAUS AND THE SANTALAND SLAYINGS BY LIZ IRELAND
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 12 (Warm) Writing Conferences in January 2022
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Tuesdays with Ambrea: Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose
Patti Abbott: Short Story Wednesday, "Dr. H.A. Moynihan from A MANUAL FOR CLEAING WOMEN by Lucia Berlin
Patti Abbott: Short Story Wednesday, "Dr. H.A. Moynihan from A MANUAL FOR CLEAING WOMEN by Lucia Berlin
Bitter Tea and Mystery: Short Story Wednesday: American Christmas Stories from the Library of America
Jerry's House of Everything: SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY: THE MYSTERY OF THE MAN WHO EVAPORATED
Little Big Crimes Review: The Search for Eric Garcia by E.A. Aymar
Short Story Wednesday Review: Mysterical- E: December 2021
In recent days, the Mysterical-E: December 2021 issue dropped after more than a year since the last issue. The new issue is a mishmash of good short stories and other content that is sorely lacking. In short, this issue does not rise to the long-established level one expects from this zine.
After a short publisher note by Joe Demarco, it is on to the stories that lead off the issue. Quality stories have always been the heart of Mysterical-E and such is the case here. There are six tales and all are good ones.
“Benny’s Luck” by K.A. Williams leads off where Benny is on a quest because his woman wants jewelry. One way or another he intends to make her happy. With his record, his options are few.
Sheriff Lucy Valentine does her best to keep the peace in “Gas Pains” by John M. Floyd. Things tend to escalate quickly in this fun tale that starts with the good Sheriff witnessing illegal posting of signs.
One does not expect to set out in the morning and find the body of a dead neighbor. Jane Howard did in “Murder in Little Venice” by Andrew Smith. The nylon rope probably had something to do with it as did the small oval bruise on each side of his neck.
Linda knows exactly what her step mom is and what she wants in “The Deceivers” by Jan Christenson. Somebody needs to help Dad see the light. Or, for that matter, just remove the problem.
“The Third Monkey- A Gill Tanner Mystery” by Tom Woodward is a classic mystery set in the 1930s. A broke private detective, a bar that serves as the detective’s second office, a beautiful babe who is as dangerous as she is beautiful, and other classic ingredients mix well in this highly atmospheric story.
Deputy George Tanka has been watching the thunderheads build and headed into Bridger County in “The Ghost of Maitland Scarp” by Carl and Jane Bock. While the rain is good for ranchers and their livestock, it means flooded washes and trouble in places like the Maitland Scarp. A place that already has a well-deserved negative reputation.
If you are on FB, especially on Mysterical-E FB page, you probably have seen the constant and often several times a day book promo by Joe Cosentino. In this issue, “Book Excerpt: Drama TV” he has a book blurb and extended excerpt from his recently published book along with numerous social media and buy links for more information.
Next up is “Mysteryical-Eye: Getting Back To It” by Gerald So. Much of the tv news in the piece is very old information by now. Nearly all of the shows discussed in the piece have not been new for a year and are deep into their second seasons with another one long since cancelled as planned. The movie referred to in the piece debuted last spring, had little to do with the book that it came from, and bombed so badly it has killed that franchise for some time to come.
Next up is Christine Verstraete with “Some Books for Winter Reading.” This is a roundup of news and excerpts of various books and anthologies as well as some background info on the authors and how the books came to be. The emphasis is on cozy mysteries.
While billed as from the publisher the “What’s Your Process” feature is still written by author Kay George. This time she features Cathy Pickens, L. C. Hayden, and Michele Drier. In each case, there is a short bio and discussion of how each author creates their stories. Interesting and informative as always.
Next up are two “Interview with a Reader” segments by Barbara Hodges. I see absolutely no point in naming the two individuals featured as there was zero explanation of who these people are, why or how they were selected, and what relevance they have with anything. It was not explained at all why anyone should care about their answers any more than why we should ever care what some random person on the street has to say when questioned by a media personality of the day.
The issue concludes with two items that are billed as reviews and are absolutely not reviews.
First up is the non-review, “Book Review: One of Us by Lorrie Ham.” Written by Vero Caravetta who opens with “In this well plotted mystery….” followed by a blow-by-blow regurgitation of much of the plot. There is zero analysis of any aspect of the book.
The issue concludes with “Review: Justice For All” anthology by the publisher Joe Demarco. He also happens to be the co-editor of the anthology. Beyond the ethics in that one never reviews anything one wrote, edited, or published, this piece is in no way a review. This non review is nothing more than publisher promo content for the anthology.
Mysterical-E has always been known primarily for the stories and how good they have been over the issues. Such is the case here with six enjoyable mystery short stories. While I had three definite preferences, all six are well done tales sure to please readers.
The rest of the issue features outdated program information, reviews that are not reviews, and irrelevant segments. The sole notable exception is Kaye George’s interview of various authors regarding their writing process. This feature is consistently good and informative, issue to issue, and the sole redeeming aspect of the back half of this issue.
Overall, the new issue has a very slapped together and sloppy feel. The names of the author who wrote the pieces are often missing from the TOC, misidentified at the article, and titles are often not properly capitalized at the article. This suggests a lack of attention to detail as does the inclusion of reviews that are not reviews, very old tv and movie news, and other previously noted problems. While the stories and the Kay George piece meet reader expectations and do it quite well, the rest of the issue absolutely does not.
Mysterical- E: December 2021 certainly does not meet the normal expectations of this reader for this publication.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2021