There’s always an extent to which crime is unexpected, except for the perpetrator—that is, if things go off as planned. It’s often the surprises, though, that make a great mystery story.
You don’t expect a killer to make an appearance at a holiday party, unfortunately for the revelers in Michael Nethercott’s “Sinners at Eight.” And when you’re a young, naïve bookstore clerk, you don’t expect that doing someone a favor will have the repercussions seen in Peter Sellers' “Christmas Help.”
A corporate attorney doesn’t expect to take on a murder case for a former client in “Coroners Don’t Change Faces” by S. Frederic Liss. But the unemployed nephew of a Hollywood mogul does expect to do great things as a masked crime fighter in James Lincoln Warren’s sendup “The Chinese Dog Mystery.”
A homeless bum doesn’t expect to have a visitor in jail in Robert Lopresti’s “Train Tracks,” but it changes his life. While an unexpected visit from U.S. Postal inspectors confirms a young Navajo boy’s suspicions in David Hagerty’s “Fair Trade.”
In Marianne Wilski Strong’s “Louisa and the Lighthouse,” a beach stroll leads to the unexpected finding of a prized necklace, while the writings of Louisa May Alcott help knit together the clues. In Alex C. Renwick’s “Shallow Sand,” a beachcomber finds more than he expected with the help of a metal detector. An unexpected windfall brings trouble for a woman with a gambling bug in John M. Floyd’s “Scavenger Hunt.” And a seemingly chance purchase from a sidewalk vendor unexpectedly troubles long-buried memories in Janice Law’s “The Crucial Game.”
Plus we have two great (only to be expected) procedurals from John H. Dirckx (“Go for the Juggler”) and David Edgerley Gates (“A Multitude of Sins”).
Finally, this issue’s Mystery Classic is “Nebuchadnezzar” by Dorothy L. Sayers. The story was selected for us by B. K. Stevens, a life-long admirer of Sayers. Sadly B. K. Stevens died before she had a chance to write the introduction, though I know she chose it in part for its humor and because it’s one of the author’s lesser-known stories.
As always, our tales may take some unexpected turns, but you can always expect to find great crime fiction in these pages.
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by Michael Nethercott
Five minutes into the cocktail party, Nellie’s nerves slammed together and conspired to kill her. At least that’s how it felt. It had been foolish of her, terrifically stupid, to have come. She should never have given in to Aunt Bebe’s insistent prodding. Nellie hated being thrust among strangers—as Bebe knew full well—but her aunt had been relentless, all smiles and assurances. READ MORE
by James Lincoln Warren
Why is it that pretty girls always show up unexpectedly at the worst possible time? Is it some natural law, like Newton’s rule about apples bonking you on the noggin with an equal and opposite force in the opposite direction? (Which, frankly, I never really understood either.) Or is it the ancient Curse of the Cramburys, of which we never speak? Although if I were to expect a pretty girl unexpectedly at the worst possible time, it would have to be Nola Channing, who never bothers to knock in the first place. READ MORE
by Robert C. Hahn
Christmas mysteries, or simply holiday mysteries, are a staple of crime fiction embraced by many of the genre’s most famous authors, and collections of holiday-themed short stories are common as well. Soho Crime has taken a rather novel, er, unusual, approach by having their stable of authors contribute Christmas-themed stories collected in The Usual Santas... READ MORE
We give a prize of $25 to the person who invents the best mystery story (in 250 words or less, and be sure to include a crime) based on the photograph provided in each issue. The story will be printed in a future issue. READ THE MOST RECENT WINNING STORY.
Acrostic puzzle by Arlene Fisher
Solve the clues to reveal an interesting observation about an author and their work! Shh! The solution to the puzzle will appear in the next issue. CURRENT ISSUE'S PUZZLE
by Willie Rose
Solve the puzzle to reveal a quotation from a short mystery story! MOST RECENT PUZZLE