Twists and Turns
I’m not a big fan of surprise endings, and yet I like to be surprised by a story. This isn’t so much of a paradox if you compare a story's plot to an unfamiliar back road. The sights and sounds are novel, the twists and turns break up the sense of inevitability, anything can lurk just around each turn. And then, where you might expect another S-curve in the road, you find yourself at a switchback.
In this issue, two brothers on the road pass the time by challenging each other with movie trivia, until they stop for gas in John M. Floyd’s “Mayhem at the Mini-Mart.” Wiki Coffin, Joan Druett’s 19th century sailor, is stranded in the Spice Islands by an earthquake and tidal wave that trigger a series of seemingly unrelated tragedies in “Stagger, Stagger.” P.I. Kasper tracks a wayward wife in “Sugar and Spice,” by Elliot F. Sweeney. Ecuadoran Police Captain Guillén may be a bull in a china shop, but he’s the preferred detective for a sensitive case in “Pobre Maria” by Tom Larsen.
In Parker Littlewood’s latest, fast-talking Wiley and his horse Buck have an unpleasant encounter on the range in “Buck and Wiley Tangle with Rustlers.” New to our pages, J. R. Parsons offers a tale of murder on the rodeo circuit in “Bama Carter Gets Rode.” An abusive boyfriend and two clever parrots make for an explosive mix in Roger Johns’s “Birdbrains.”
Cassandra Chan returns to these pages after a long hiatus with a historical whodunit set on tony Long Island in “A Murder in Oyster Bay.” And two seasonal stories bookmark our issue: “HazMat Holiday” by Catherine Dilts and “Do Not Open Till Christmas” by Steve Hockensmith.
A popular YA author returns to his family vacation home, and confronts his past, in Charles John Harper’s “Backstory.” A reckoning arrives in the night via a favorite car in Michael Nethercott’s “All Our Crimes.” A glimpse of the future in the midst of a pandemic doesn’t ease the uncertainty in Dave Zeltserman’s “Uncle Woody’s Thingmajig.”
The end of the year reminds us that our own future is also an unknown path. A path we hope is shared with family and friends—old and new—that leads to good health and new and interesting possibilities. Here’s to a Happy New Year to all our readers and writers. It’s been a joy to share this path with you.
Look for our January/February 2022 issue on sale at newsstands on December 14, 2021. Or subscribe to AHMM in print or in a wide variety of digital formats.