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July/August 2020

Crime on Parallel Planes

One of the attractions of crime fiction is the complexity of the plotlines. In addition to the narrative of the investigation, there is a parallel retelling of the crime, the story of the cover-up is also the story of its unveiling. A tale told from multiple perspectives, each informed by history and personal experience and emotion, can turn in surprising ways. In “Second Sight,” David Edgerley Gates explores how two officers, at two points in time, approach a case of a missing boy in New Mexico. In “The Amputation Pit,” Nancy Pauline Simpson’s early twentieth century Sheriff Stickley and the nurse he is sweet on, Miss Polk, put their heads together to figure out how the remains of a young woman came to be in a pit of bones of amputated limbs dating back to the Civil War. A woman trying to understand her son’s suicide recreates his social network in “The Substitute Dealer” by Jeff Soloway, while an art student confronts some uncomfortable truths when he stalks his teacher in Elaine Menge’s “Plein Air.”

The landscape of a good mystery story can be as twisty as its plot. In a nod to Borges, Robert Lopresti places “The Library of Poisonville” in an underground bunker with beguiling contents. A fraternity pursues a solo hike on a winter’s night through the New Hampshire woods in Susan Oleksiw’s “The Pledge.” Competitive half brothers navigate their drug lord father’s business in R. T. Lawton’s sixth Shan Army story, “Reckoning with Your Host.” A young defense advocate navigates a legal maze in “A Beastly Trial,” a historical which author Mark Thielman notes is very much based on actual practices of the time. A famous jockey pursues the truth behind a losing horse in “Mystic Dream” by John F. Dobbyn

The streets of San Francisco in a near distant future offers an unusual setting for our thirteenth Black Orchid Novella Award-winning story, “The Red Taxi” by Ted Burge. The beautiful, volcanic landscape of Hawaii can be perilous to tourists in Albert Tucher’s “JDLR.” And Wayne J. Gardiner considers the particular challenges of interviewing for a job with the Mob in “Strickly Business.”

In crime fiction, there are always two or more versions to a story, making for twice the pleasure (or more!) from each of this issue's tales.

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Mystic Dream

by John F. Dobbyn

Who says you can’t go home? I could feel those same ripples in my stomach. It was just like the first day I walked up to the gate to the backstretch at Boston’s then humming, now a bit back on its heels, Thoroughbred horse track, Suffolk Downs. Max Gatto was still the security guard at the gate. I remember his first words to me back then. “Where the hell you think you’re going, kid?”

Max peered into the window of my Corvette through eyes a bit dimmer now. “Yes, sir. Can I help you find something?”

I got out of the car and held out my hand. “Max, if there’s anything on this backstretch I couldn’t still find blindfolded, you could get me a guide dog. Good to see you.”

“Damn! Is it you, Mickey? I mean Mr. Donegan.”

“It’s Mickey. It’ll always be Mickey. You let me through that gate my first time eight years ago in those ratty sneakers and jeans.” READ MORE


A Beastly Trial

by Mark Thielman

It was a sign of Bernard de Vallenchin’s desperation that sitting upon a blanket alongside the Loire proved the best place to contemplate his situation. Unless seduction demanded the privacy of the riverbank, an educated man of sixteenth-century France belonged in a city or town, Bernard believed, and not here among the trees, insects, and farmers. He found the birdsong to be far more disruptive to his concentration than a marketplace full of shouted negotiations. He would have much preferred a rough-hewn table at the inn where he was staying, the boards liberally marked with the scratches and spills of revelries past, the din of clanging tankards and crockery, the thick smoke from the grease-dripped fireplace; these never hindered his work. Bernard thrived in the crowded and jostling environment of the inn. Even a narrow bench at a bailliage courthouse would better serve his efforts to ponder out a solution to his predicament. The mingling of avocats and procureurs, bits of professional gossip hanging in the air alongside legal arguments, these stimulated Bernard de Vallenchin’s thought processes. Outside, among the rustling trees, was where one went as a last resort. And that was precisely why Bernard de Vallenchin found himself alongside the gray waters of the Loire. He had been hounded from the surroundings of his choice. There, he found himself unwanted. Here, he felt like a peasant. READ MORE

Black Orchid Novella Award

The Red Taxi

by Ted Burge

I looked at him and shrugged. “I’ve been offline, taking it easy. Hey, I’m lucky to remember to pay my phone bill and to keep the thing charged. You’re lucky I even got your call.” I leaned back against my dilapidated Mustang parked on a steep San Francisco slope, with a view that tumbled off Nob Hill. My Mustang wasn’t from the sexy Steve McQueen era or the revived series with airbags. No, I plucked my Mustang from the vulgar boxy dynasty in between. Unlike my choice in cars and my downward spiral of jobs, I had comfort in knowing that my wife had been the one correct decision I had made. Lately, I had been distracted a lot about that.

“You have at least heard of my company, right?” asked Deacon, gesturing with some agitation. READ MORE



Booked & Printed

by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo

The ground facts of the past may be what they are. But our memories are malleable, ever-shifting, recalling and misremembering the past with countless angles, interpretations, certainties, and uncertainties. This month, Booked and Printed examines books that explore the role of memory, interpretation, and the past, with protagonists troubled by the difficulty of attaining certainty.  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.


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 Christie

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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