Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Short Story Wednesday Review: Moonlight & Misadventure: 20 Stories of Mystery and Suspense Editor Judy Penz Sheluk

With the recent announcement by Judy Penz Sheluk that she is gearing up to do a fourth anthology, it seemed a good time to remind you of this anthology from Superior Shores Press. From the massive archive…


Moonlight & Misadventure: 20 Stories of Mystery and Suspense opens with a powerful tale by Joseph S. Walker titled “Crown Jewel.” Keenan Beech has brother issues. Specifically, twin brother issues. Xavier has now taken something that rightfully belonged only to Keenan. Xavier knew how to stick the knife in--figuratively-- and Keenan intends to restore balance by getting back what is his. At least, that was plan before everything got so very complicated.

Twins and their relationship are also a major part of the following story, “The Ballard of The Jerrell Twins” by Clark Boyd. Whether Darrell and Terrell really are or are not twins is not the question. The real question here is the accepted idea that two heads are better than one. In this case, they may not be as neither one is all that smart. That is apparent before the mystery, the nitrous oxide, and many other things come to light.

Tammy Lee Swanley sets up to watch Lombard’s Jewelry as “Tammy Loves Derek” by Bethany Maines begins. She has history with Derek Lombard. The same Derek Lombard coming out of the jewelry store as he is locking up for the night. She has a plan. In fact, she has a five-step plan to gain wealth. That plan is now in motion.

Lorretta Bremer with two little ones and an important job to do she has her hands full in 1921 as she rides a train from Camden to Atlantic City. You do what you do when you are a widow and on your own. Things are hard. Finding a body in her hotel room makes things so much worse. The fact that the body is of Roger MacNair who had hired her for dictation and typing at the convention is going to be a huge problem in “Moonset” by Jeanne Dubois.

After reading “Reunions” by John M. Floyd, you may think again about striking up a conversation on a plane. Larry Taylor did just that, helped out Roger Farnsworth by paying for his drink, and things went into motion.

Uncle Kenny has a plan, but Josh O’ Leary does not want to hear it. Uncle Kenny’s plans are never fool proof-- even when he claims they are-- and often result in long prison sentences. Uncle Kenny is sure his plan will absolutely work this time because they will keep it in the family in “A Currency of Wishes” by Kate Fellowes.

Gwen, as a child, started lifting items here and there. The Barbie doll was the first treasure in “Cereus Thinking” by Tracy Falenwolfe. She lived with her grandparents, Don and June, who never leave the campground they run. Manatee Playground Campsite is her home and she lifts treasures from those folks who tick her off as they come through while on vacation. By the time she is of legal age, she has long since realized she needs to get out of there. Leroy Lafontaine might be her ticket out.

Readers go back in time to the early 1930s in the next tale, “Just Like Peg Entwistle” by Robert Weibezahl. In the time of the big studios and controlled access to movie stars, the sudden death of Peg Entwistle was huge news. Was it a suicide? Was the death of the young actress murder? What really happened is the subject of this tale.

The trio is out in the swamp hunting for a lost treasure in “Scavenger Hunt” by Michael A. Clark. It was lost in February 1958. All these decades later, the three are deep in the Wassaw Sound with the faint city light glow of Savannah far to their south. Lit by moonlight, the search is on.

It is back in time again with the next short story, “My Night with the Duke of Edinburgh” by Susan Daly. It is the fall of 1951 and Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, will soon arrive in Canada for a royal tour. The group of college students in Toronto want to make some sort of symbolic public statement regarding Canada’s sovereignty as a nation. Exactly what kind of statement and the repercussions of their act are the theme of this tale.

She had a pretty good idea of who her big brother was, warts and all, and now Oliver is “Dead on the Beach” by KM Rockwood. At least, she thought she knew everything. But, what she is being told regarding his death does not make a lot of sense. She starts asking questions. As any reader should know, not only do snitches get stiches, asking questions can get you killed.

Mom is dead and now Uncle Peter wants his share of what the daughters have coming to them. Not that there is a lot in “Madeline in the Moonlight” by Susan Jane Wright. Mom was an artist and a bit eccentric so pretty much what you see is what you get. Peter, being Mom’s baby brother, has no claim but he certainly is pushing things.

Murder is hard and messy work. Especially when you use a sledgehammer. It was well worth it in “Not a Cruel Man” by Buzz Dixon. Cleanup should be easy.

Angie Kritt is more than ready to shut down the old tavern for the night. It has been a long day and she is very much ready to go in “12 miles to Taylorsville” by C.W. Blackwell. Once she gets rid of the last few guys from the logging crew, she can do a couple of things and get home. That is until Meena shows up terrified and on the run.

Old Man Harper is some sort of creepy perv who likes teen girls. At least, that is what everybody at school says. Everybody knows what he is and want him gone. Katy, Ron, and Grace-Rose have decided to give him a push on to somewhere else in “Chicken Coops and Bread Pudding” by K.L. Abrahamson.

Peter Hayes puts in a lot of unpaid hours. In “The Promotion” by Billy Houston, that hard work is finally going to pay off. One way or another.

Just before the power went out, the police got an alert from the security system at the library. Officers Grabowski and Tyler are dispatched in “The Library Clue” by Sharon Hart Addy. A broken basement window means they have to check it out.

The plan is the thing in “Ill Met By Moonlight, Proud Miss Dolmas” by Elizabeth Elwood. Teaching Drama and English is hard enough due to the actions of some students who think they are entitled. Some want to ignore the rules. They seem to have found an ally in the new principal, Martha Dolmas, who has never taught a class in a day of her life.

Being a public health inspector is a hard job. Having an overbearing and incompetent boss, as was present in the preceding story, just makes things worse.  In “The Moon God of Broadmoor” by M. H. Callway, Liz gets reminded that her job means she has to shovel some stuff. Figuratively and literally.

The last tale is “Strawberry Moon” by Editor Judy Penz Sheluk. All she wants to do is cross the border into the US. Unfortunately, she is dealing with a United States border guard that likes his power a little too much.

From the complicated and powerful opening tale to the twist ending in the last one, the twenty stories in the book are all good ones. Moonlight as well as misadventure in a variety of ways plays a major role in all of them. So does more than a hint of madness in many of the tales. In some cases, things happened as they always would because of the nature of the folks involved. In others, the plan failed sometimes in surprising ways.

Moonlight & Misadventure: 20 Stories of Mystery and Suspense is an anthology that features many complicated reads. Every tale selected is a good one and well worth your time.


Editor Judy Penz Sheluk sent me a digital ARC of the book with no expectation or promise of a review.


 Kevin R. Tipple ©2021, 2023

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