The spark that lights the fuse. The straw that breaks the back. The pastry that launches the multi-volume reminiscence.
Crime and mystery stories often zero in on the dramatic moment when the chance remark or minor action trigger disproportionate results, whether that be the outbreak of violence or the insight that allows the detective to solve the puzzle. The stories in our July/August issue offer a rich assortment of such moments, sometimes explosive, as in LaToya Jovena’s “Stingers” or Albert Tucher’s “The Rabbi,” or sometimes subtly redolent of a distant memory, as Marcel Proust finds in Joseph Goodrich’s “The Paris Manuscript.”
Effective moments arise from the authors’ careful alchemy of story and character: a nonverbal stroke victim learns new ways of experiencing and communicating in periods of stillness and of crisis in Emily Devenport’s “Until You’ve Seen Their Shadows”; a housecleaner pieces together the clues to snag a client involved in selling drugs in Eve Fisher’s “The Sweet Life”; a Depression-era Arkansas landholder discovers some uncomfortable truths when he looks into a murder that occurred on the edge of his property in Mike Culpepper’s “How I Solved a Blind Pig Murder”; and in a single afternoon, an international bounty hunter must pivot from a pleasant lunch with her mother to facing down Russian gangsters in “The Waiting Game” by Dana Haynes.
Meanwhile, the purported power embodied in a recently emerged ancient scroll obsesses academics and armies alike in Brian Cox’s “The Jericho Incantation.” Jason Half returns with a story of a woman on the run from an abusive relationship, told from the perspective of her autistic son, in “Nicky and the Darkness.” And a bar patron robs a local tough guy of his power in Bob Tippee’s “The Regular Nobody Knew.”
Finally, we’re proud to present our 14th annual Black Orchid Novella Winner, Tom Larsen, who introduces an irascible new detective in “El Cuerpo en el Barril.”
All of these, we hope, will trigger feelings of pleasure and excitement in readers.
Get your copy now!
by Dana Haynes
Katalin Fiero Dahar lunched in Madrid with her mother, in a sunny, street-side restaurant on Calle de Segovia, featuring an outdoor dining area under trellises heavy with pomegranate flowers, bougainvillea, and red carnations. She didn’t get to Madrid often; she and her business partner, Michael Patrick Finnigan, lived on the island of Cyprus. But it was always good to get home and to fit some time in with her famous journalist/activist mother.
Kadija Dahar arrived late and left early, but they had a full forty minutes in between, which is more than Fiero had had with her mother in better than a year. She took the forty minutes and called it good.
After lunch, Fiero stepped into the ladies’ restroom to freshen up before catching a taxi to the airport. Michael was in Brussels, and he had their company’s de Havilland Otter. Fiero was flying commercial on this trip, for the simple reason that her parents believed she and Michael to be low-level bureaucrats, churning out dull-as-dishwater reports for the European Union.
Low-level bureaucrats don’t own their own airplanes. Especially ones outfitted with an arsenal and false identifications and restraints in the cargo hold.
Fiero and Finnigan made their living as bounty hunters, tracking down the worst of the world’s worst criminals and delivering them—for a significant fee—to the various courts of Europe. The de Havilland and its pilot were part of St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking, a faux Cypriot marine salvage firm that served as a cover for their work.
Nice work if you can get it. Tough to explain to a leftist academic mother and a baron of Spanish industry such as her father. READ MORE
by Joslyn Chase
The secret burned inside her like the flickering candle at the center of the cloth-covered dining table, warming her from within. She watched the tiny flame as it guttered and glowed inside the crimson glass which held it, a small, licking tongue so benign when contained and so utterly dangerous if let loose.
The smell of hot wax enveloped the intimate table for two, but Serena scowled across at an empty seat. Gavin was late. She had no doubt, however, that he would show. She’d caught him looking at her with that intrigued expression in his eyes just as often as he’d caught her stealing glances at him. No mistake—there was something between them.
There always had been.
Serena buttered a slice of dark brown bread and bit into the tang of caraway and rye, chewing slowly, letting the flavors play over her tongue. She blessed her love for good literature. It had been the Bay Ladies’ Book Club that brought them together. Or at least it had brought her and Daphne together and the rest fell into place like destiny. Serena had been so pleased when Daphne volunteered to host the meetings. All the ladies had a good excuse for not doing it themselves—apartment too small, rowdy children at home, pets people are allergic to—but Serena wondered how many of the others, like she, harbored a hidden passion for Daphne’s sexy husband.
The hostess returned, a touch of smirk showing behind her solicitous smile.
“Would you like to order a drink while you’re waiting?”
“I would, thank you. Dubonnet, with a twist.” 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