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Current Issue

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March/April 2020

Guises and Disguises

Sometimes exposing the truth involves donning a disguise. But subterfuge and misdirection add spice to crime stories, and this issue is chock full of reversals and surprises. In “Night Train for Berlin” by William Burton McCormick, individuals at opposite ends of the political spectrum are equally threatened by two brutal regimes. In these pages you’ll find sleuths in the guise of an eighteenth century shipmate in Joan Druett’s “The Botanist” or a retired chemistry professor in Jim Fusilli’s “Albert January and His First Love.” An actor gets a job as an investigator at a plant where employees claim they’ve seen a ghost in Catherine Dilts’s “Industrial Gold,” while an aging actor is at the mercy of is his caretakers in Tom Savage’s “Best Performance.” Sheriff Ray is once again outsmarted by mystery writer Jennifer Parker in John M. Floyd’s Mississippi-set “Quarterback Sneak.” Martin Limón brings back his Army investigators in Korea in “Chow Hall.” A sheriff in the Australian outback goes to extraordinary lengths to protect a neighbor in “Something Off” by Michael Caleb Tasker. A parolee trying to get her life back together has the bad fortune to be the first on the scene of a crime in “The DQ Rules” by Chuck Greaves. A troupe of traveling ironmongers in Biblical times is caught in the fighting between the Kanaanites and the Israelites in Kenneth Wishnia’s “Bride of Torches.” Sheriff Gonzalo, in a small village in central mountains of Puerto Rico, comes to the aid of a woman whose neighbor is trying to take her land in Steven Torres’s “The Care of Widows and Orphans.” A hapless attorney is forced to represent a family running an illegal pearl operation in Robert Mangeot’s humorous tale “Lord, Spare the Bottom Feeders.” Hiring a hitman comes with an onerous contract in Larry Light’s “Scroll Down.” A precocious teen is the subject of bullies in Rachel Howzell Hall’s poignant story, “Little Thing.” These tales turn crime inside out in the guise of well-wrought fiction.

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Fiction

The Botanist

by Joan Druett

Wiki shook his head. “No. Absolutely not. Categorically and absolutely no.”

“But you could prevent a vile murder,” George protested.

“By dressing up as a pantomime sailor? You must be joking!”

Wiki Coffin and his friend, Midshipman George Rochester, were perched in the maintop of the great United States frigate Potomac, and the view was tremendous. The frigate was anchored off Batavia, the Dutch trading hub on the northern coast of Java, and the city with its gridlike pattern of canals and streets lay ahead. Sternward of the ship, to the north, the cranes and ropewalks of the ship-outfitting islands were silhouetted against the milky horizon. All around, the great bay was a bustle of ships of all nations, with humbler coastal craft anchored closer to the city. Wiki could see the pinisi schooner that had carried him here. They had arrived just this dawn after a pleasant sail from Sumatra to Java, with sacks of pepper on board, and he could see dots of men unloading them. The crew had been small, the captain amiable, and the food very good, and he would have stayed to help unload, and for the next voyage, too, if he had not spied the frigate as they had tacked inshore. READ MORE

 
 

Something Off

by Michael Caleb Tasker

For a while my daughter wanted to be an opera singer. She listened to it all the time. Drove me nuts. And now, when I hear Caruso or Callas or Nilsson, I think of her, and I miss her. God, I miss her. 

Annette called me first. A wolf’s bite of a wind had been blowing over the prairie and through town since morning and I went home early. Next door, canola rippled over the Harrison’s farm, catching the last of the sad, silver sun as it went down. The phone rang as I came in the door.

Her voice was warm. Shy, edgy even, but still somehow warm. I sat down to listen to her.

“Can you come over, Johnny? Right away?”

“You okay?”

“I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so.” Her voice thinned out, disappeared.

“Sit tight. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” When I hung up I kept hearing her voice, hearing words she never said. I took an apple from the fridge, rubbed it clean on my shirt, and wondered why she had called me Johnny. No one called me that anymore. READ MORE

Departments

Booked & Printed

by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo

The spectrum of criminality is vast, claiming us as participants in any number of ways. Many of us participate in crimes without our fully knowing. We contribute, through banal, routine choices, to the suffering of innocent strangers, while claiming our own innocence. Or, some of us revel in obliterating society’s written and unwritten rules, sneering at the upright citizens who refuse to offend with us. Booked and Printed examines two titles that delve into the attitudes of perpetrators, be they proud, self-centered rogues, or as everyday as us.  READ MORE

 
 

Mysterious Photograph

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.

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Dying Words

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

 
 

Scrambled Plum

by Mark Lagasse

Unscramble the letters of each numbered entry to spell the name of a famous sleuth.  MOST RECENT PUZZLE

 

 

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