With this issue we note with sorrow the passing of a longtime friend of AHMM: John Lutz died January 9 at the age of 81. We were just in the process of selecting a cover illustration for John’s latest Alo Nudger story, “Tag, You’re Dead,” when we heard the news. John was a prolific short story writer whose relationship with AHMM spanned 55 years; he published his first mystery story, “Thieves’ Honor,” in our pages in 1966. In 1982, he won a Shamus Award for an Alo Nudger story, “What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You” (Nov. 1982) and an Edgar Award for another Nudger tale, “Ride the Lightning” (Jan. 1985). He also published 40 novels, including the thriller “SWF Seeks Same” which was adapted for film as Single White Female. The story in this issue shows John still at the top of his game and nicely exemplifies his artistry, featuring as it does his skill with subtle humor, revelation of character through interaction, and masterful use of detail to evoke the setting.
With this issue of 16 stories, we send John off in good company.
Turning from grief to celebration, congratulations to Joseph S. Walker, who is nominated for an Edgar Award for his story “Etta at the End of the World” (May/June 2020); we’re delighted to have his latest story in this issue: “Wednesday’s at Ten” explores the fraught relationship between psychotherapist and client. Also in these pages: a retired judge mysteriously goes silent in “Lydia’s Law” by Kevin Eagan; a police detective recuperating in Hawaii finds himself on a busman’s holiday in “The Road to Hana” by R. T. Lawton; and a diplomat pokes his nose into the case of a murdered African missionary in “A Death in the Parish” by Nick Spencer.
Mark Thielman’s “Spud Stud” P.I. shows his “eye” for investigation when crime visits the Potato Hall of Fame cocktail party. Robert Mangeot follows a small-town sheriff battling a crime wave in “Scratch.” Two sisters who make miniature crime scenes solve a cold case with their attention to detail in “The Witches of Endor” by Janice Law. And Mark Twain and Nicolas Tesla team up to solve a case of business sabotage in Joseph D’Agnese’s “Mr. Tesla Likes to Watch.”
A dying writer and an insolent teenager at a run-down camp delve into a mystery dating back more than a hundred years in David Bart’s “Brothers Out of Time.” The scion of a wealthy family in early sixties Sacramento is accused of murder in “Minerva James and the Judgment of the Furies” by 2018 BONA winner Mark Bruce. James Lincoln Warren introduces the perceptive teen Dee, who attends a high school for wizards with her stepsister, who has a knack for trouble, in “School Spirits.”
A Florida roadside attraction is the setting for a mysterious disappearance in “Gatorpalooza” by Alan Orloff. A band of itinerant preachers come to town for a life-altering event in “The Devil in Preemption” by Max Gersh. And modern-day Hollywood is the setting of Robert Lopresti’s “The Fourth Circle.”
Like John, many of these authors have long relationships with AHMM, and we are grateful for them, and for you, our readers.
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by Janice Law
The two women bent over their worktable. One held a strip of plywood, built out and decorated to depict the facades of several battered looking brick buildings, while the other screwed a cleat to the base of the diorama.
“Have we ever done both inside and out before?” Edie asked. Her long thick hair, streaked gray and brown, was pulled back and tied with a ribbon. Just like George Washington, her sister always said. Edie had strong arms and hands and did most of the carpentry.
Cynthia was two years younger. She still had her dark hair and she wore large glasses that magnified intense, dark eyes. They shared noses of character and square, determined chins. Both sisters were older than they looked and a good deal sharper too.
The facade secured, they stepped back and studied the effect. A narrow street had acquired a row of seedy-looking shops, broken by an external stair to rented rooms above. Edie selected a second component, the floor and walls of one of those apartments. Although still empty of furniture, the room had working windows, one at the front partly raised, and two doors, one leading out to the stair. The room had cream-painted trim and a brown-and-gold striped wallpaper. The floor was linoleum with a dusty pinkish area rug. READ MORE
by Michael Bracken
Stovall, Texas, 1957
The phone rang. Country-western singer Earl Coffman untangled himself from the dark-haired roadie sharing his bed at the Stovall Inn and fumbled for it. After he answered, a soft female voice said, “I have long distance for you from Nashville. Will you take the call?”
The phone clicked and a moment later he heard, “Earl? Earl is that you?”
“It’s me, Irma Jean,” he said as he swung his feet off the bed and stood, careful to step around the new Fender Stratocaster leaning against the wall. “You don’t have to shout.”
“It’s a boy,” she said. “An eight-pound-four-ounce baby boy.”
Earl switched on the bedside lamp and glanced at the clock next to it. One a.m. was minutes away. “When?" READ MORE
by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo
What figure haunts more than a father? The men who nurtured or abandoned their children, who marked families with their presence or their absence. And the father figures, the stepfathers and mentors who stepped in to reshape families; what happens when they fulfill, neglect, or betray their roles as nurturing parents? What of their subtler and greater crimes? This issue, Booked and Printed examines the transgressions of those pivotal parents, and the coping mechanisms, destinies, and climactic choices of the children who endure their fathers’ wrongs. 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.
by Lee and Denene Lofland
During the early months of 2020, police officers, as part of their daily duties, responded to fights-in-progress, robberies, assaults, break-ins, thefts and, well, the usual plethora of criminal activity, all in a “business as usual” manner. They, of course, practiced officer safety—watch the hands of a suspect, protect against ambush, utilize proper arrest techniques and defensive tactics, and other academy-taught skills. Then, practically within the time it takes to sneeze, the world changed, and when it did the manner in which police officers perform their daily responsibilities abruptly turned on its head.
When COVID-19 invaded the globe, law enforcement officers suddenly found themselves in the unusual position of standing on the line between public safety and public health. As essential service providers that include EMS and hospital staff, police officers continued reporting to work even in environments that lacked necessary protective equipment, all while forced to interact with people who may or may not be infected. READ MORE
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 Mark Lagasse
Unscramble the letters of each numbered entry to spell the name of a famous sleuth. MOST RECENT PUZZLE