A short story a day review

Month: April, 2012

The Austin Murder Case by John L. Breen

by Arun

Source: Ellery Queen’s Mystery Parade

Story Number: 104

EQ’s Introduction to this story: Fans and aficionados have always regretted that certain famous detectives have appeared only in full-length novels. S.S. Van Dine is one such example who never wrote a short story about the sophistic and sophisticated Philo Vance. John L. Breen has set out to rectify this shortfall by providing his version of a Philo Vance short story – what might be called “a hitherto undiscovered account of one of Vance’s greatest triumphs” – a pastiche with parody touches, every tone and every accent the right “McWright,” the real “McDine” ….

Jack Austin is leaving New York and moving to Hollywood to make talking pictures and he is throwing a big party to celebrate the occasion. And he has sent an invitation to Philo Vance and Van Dine through Markahm – where each guest will come dressed as his favorite movie star! Vance goes in dressed as Doug Fairbanks and is immediately assured in by his host – who is dressed as Charlie Chaplin. The other guests include a respected Jurist, his daughter, a society vamp, a playboy, the Broadway producer who will be hit the hardest because Jack is moving, a theatrical agent, a debutante, and another actor – while all of the guests were wishing Austin good luck, a few of them were not really on the best of terms with their host. And before the night is out, the host is found dead – stabbed several times with an Orient letter opener!

And it doesn’t take too long for Philo Vance to figure out who the killer is – the dying message clue is aptly interpreted by him and the clue on which the whole case hinges – how did the killer escape from having blood on him when it was such a bloody murder, is interestingly hidden among the useless trivia that is presented to the reader when the reader is getting impatient with all the unwanted knowledge that is being introduced to him!

It contains all the trademarks of a Van Dine story and much more – you see Philo Vance doing double somersaults, you see Van Dine falling in love (thereby breaking his own rule from the 20 rules for writing detective stories), eleven footnotes in a span of thirteen pages with one footnote quoting “were this a full-length novel, I would reproduce those remarks here, since they would undoubtedly be of interest to collectors. Unfortunately, the short- story form offers less latitude for the introduction of such peripheral matters.”

Hard Times, Ron Rash, BURNING BRIGHT

by Patti Abbott

#126 Patti Abbott
It is during the depression and a man and his wife notice eggs are disappearing. She had grown hard, so hard that she’s driven her children away. When he discovers who has committed the theft, he must conceal it from his wife.

That Summer by Joan Tuohy

by Barb Goffman

From the anthology Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices (L & L Dreamspell 2011)


In this nice framed story, a woman recalls a murder that happened many years ago within her own family.

“My Name” by Sandra Cisneros

by kattomic

“My Name” by Sandra Cisneros


Story 117/366

I was reading the description of a course developed at Yale for teaching women writers and the short story and this story was mentioned. Then I went to her site and read her lovely tribute to her veterinarian. I often think the quality of a writer’s fiction is measured by the grace of his or her nonfiction and what she wrote made me cry. “My Name” is from Cisneros’ book The House on Mango Street. It is a meditation on identity and a declaration of personality. It is very short, but packs a punch. You can read it online here.

See you tomorrow!

Author photograph copyright 2011 by Alan Goldfarb

“The Black Friday of Daniel Maddox” by Chad Eagleton

by kattomic

“The Black Friday of Daniel Maddox” by Chad Eagleton.


Story 116/366

I love themed anthologies and thought the idea behind Discount Noir was brilliant. Edited by Patricia Abbott and Steve Weddle, it’s chock full of flash fiction that all take place in a big box store. This one is the story of a man pushed beyond his limits as he waits in line to buy a Sony television as big as a movie screen.You can find more of Chad’s fiction on his site, Cathode Angel.

See you tomorrow!

A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

by Patti Abbott

#125 pa
Of course, I have read this before but had forgotten the chilling difference in tone between the light-hearted first half of the story and the dark, dangerous second half. Also forgotten the matter of fact way, the second part is told. Brilliant and more so today than when I was 25.

Blue Norton by Daniel Woodrell

by sandraseamans

With Woodrell, it’s the writing that I enjoy.  His descriptions of the world his characters live in come alive on the page.  “Blue Norton” is the story of a group of soldiers in Viet Nam wakened at three in the morning to go look for their sergeant’s foot after a wreck.  But the underneath of the story is what brings it to life.  The unspoken lives of these men.  You can read the story here  http://www.iwwbookreview.com/blue-norton.htm

A Hand on the Shoulder, Ian McEwan, THE NEW YORKER

by Patti Abbott

A young woman is being recruited to work in MI-5. She takes a much older lover, who educates her in British history. He is married, of course, and things go awry eventually. Looks to be part of a novel for McEwan. I am a great fan and the writing here was terrific if the entire story seemed a bit incomplete. PA

In the Wee Hours by John M. Floyd

by sandraseamans

One of the best things about clicking around the Internet is finding stories by writers you admire.   John Floyd is an excellent short story writer.  He does both cozy and noir crime stories and “In the Wee Hours” is of the cozy variety.  The whole story takes place in a dream that revisits the story of Little Red Riding Hood.  Loads of fun.  You can read it here  http://www.overmydeadbody.com/floyd2.htm

A Poet’s Justice by Eileen Dunbaugh

by Barb Goffman

From the anthology Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices (L & L Dreamspell 2011)


This story is told from the point of view of a woman working as an aide to an elderly lady, and now one of the woman’s family members has finally come to visit. The aide clearly thinks the family cares about nothing but the woman’s money. Is she right? I can’t really say much more without giving things away.)