The confidence game, the double cross, the friend’s betrayal, the stranger’s help—crime and mystery stories regularly turn on fraught and fundamental questions of trust. Whether earned, honored, misplaced, or withheld, trust is the currency of social exchange, a driver of characters’ interactions, and, as many of the stories in this issue demonstrate, a key ingredient for brewing narrative suspense and satisfaction.
Our cover story, “Miss Starr’s Good-bye” by Leslie Budewitz, features the return of Stagecoach Mary, who finds that she has won the trust of woman accused of murder. A psychology professor is entrusted with babysitting an unstable actress as a movie wraps up production in James L. Ross’s “Last Night in Malibu.” In Janice Law’s “The Stop-In Motel,” an undocumented worker puts himself at risk to aid a stranger who has no one else to trust. And airborne half-siblings are notably lacking in trust as they squabble over the family beer-brewing business in Deborah Lacy’s locked-room tale, “The Sky’s the Limit.”
An urchin living on the streets of pre-Revolution Paris must take care who he trusts in R. T. Lawton’s “A Loaf of Bread.” Serving in a Boer War field hospital, Dr. John Watson finds his trust in human nature shaken in James Tipton’s “The Candy Box.” A transgendered woman in Chicago is the reluctant trustee of distressing information in S. L. Franklin’s “The Seal of the Confessional.” And a social worker in western Massachusetts trusts her instincts in Susan Oleksiw’s wrenching “Just Another Runaway.”
Meanwhile, a karate master setting up shop in a new town encounters conflict with neighborhood teens in Melissa Yi’s “Dueling Dojos.” An unemployed Vietnam vet and his girlfriend find themselves in the wrong bank at the wrong time in Peter Colt’s “The Hippie.” A “friendly” poker game in an RV camp precedes a suspicious drowning in John H. Dirckx’s procedural, “Tragedy at Daybreak.” One man’s obsessions are matched when he finds, at last, his “soul mate,” in Dave Zeltserman’s wry “Terrible Thoughts.” Two runaway teens fall afoul of fate in New Orleans in O’Neil De Noux’s “A Meanness in Me.” And on the lighter side, a holiday culinary mix-up could have serious consequences for a young probationer in Mark Thielman’s “Thanksgiving Eve.”
Our Case File column features Gary Phillips talking about his career in graphic literature and analyzing some mid-century African American comic strips that combined laughs and social commentary. And the issue as usual is rounded out with puzzles, book reviews, and a new Mysterious Photo contest.
In an untrustworthy world, readers can always count on AHMM to deliver a satisfying selection of engrossing tales.
Look for our November/December 2019 issue on sale at newsstands on October 22, 2019. Or subscribe to AHMM in print or in a wide variety of digital formats.