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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 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 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 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.

Look for our July/August 2021 issue on sale at newsstands on June 15, 2021. Or subscribe to AHMM in print or in a wide variety of digital formats.

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