The short story is a form of mystery fiction that is often overlooked or underrated. For the writer, they can be both challenging and satisfying: a chance to explore new voices, settings, and subgenres; a discipline involving tight plotting, freshness and originality, a limited word count, and a twist at the end; an opportunity to heave a sigh of relief and write "The End" after a week or two rather than a year or two. For the reader, they're a chance to read new authors before investing in a book and a reading experience that even if it delays your turning out your light at night, won't keep you up all night turning pages.
This year's Agatha nominees for Best Short Story are a group I'm proud to be part of. Rather than tell you about Dana Cameron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Barb Goffman, Kaye George, and me, let's let their stories speak for themselves. Through the magic of the web, you can click on the links and read all five of them well before it's time to vote for your favorite at Malice Domestic at the end of April.
Elizabeth Zelvin, “Death Will Trim Your Tree” in THE GIFT OF MURDER, (Wolfmont Press, a holiday crime anthology to benefit Toys for Tots)
http://www.elizabethzelvin.com/PDF/Zelvin, Death Will Trim Your Tree PDF.pdf
Barbara makes latkes and Jimmy supervises while Bruce wrestles with those pesky strings of lights. When a trip to the hardware store leads to murder, the crucial clue is something only a recovering alcoholic could know.
Barb Goffman, “The Worst Noel” in THE GIFT OF MURDER (Wolfmont Press, a holiday crime anthology to benefit Toys for Tots)
Mom loves Becca best. Gwen's always known that, and she's put up with it - until this holiday season. A little too much family togetherness, coupled with some professional humiliation caused by Mom, pushes Gwen over the edge. So she plans a Christmas Eve dinner that no one will ever forget.
Dana Cameron, “Femme Sole” in BOSTON NOIR (ed. Dennis Lehane, Akashic Books)
In 1740s Boston, Anna Hoyt owns a North-End tavern and all the local
thugs—including her husband—want a piece of it. What's a lone woman to
do when waterfront rats threaten her livelihood?
Hank Phillippi Ryan, “On the House” in QUARRY (Level Best Books)
A twisty tale of broken promises, broken hearts and intricately-planned revenge proves when true love goes wrong, a woman's best friend may be her dog. Or--not.
Kaye George, “Handbaskets, Drawers and A Killer Cold” in CROOKED (a crime fiction e-zine)
When Chicago cop Cal Arnold stops at the drugstore for cough syrup to tame his raging cold, he ends up taking in a hold-up artist instead. On his next attempt, same drugstore, another robbery is in progress. This time the felon is Nate, the wayward brother of Cal's wife and the guy who was the subject of their latest heated argument. The sixteen-year-old has a wild streak as wide as Lake Michigan, a chip on his shoulder the size of the Sears Tower, and has recently been kicked out of Cal's house. Nate speeds away from the drugstore while Cal is paralyzed by a coughing fit, but Cal is positive he has recognized the vehicle. Go after his brother-in-law? Write up his report and leave out the vehicle? Cal has to decide whose wrath he fears more, his wife's or his captain's.