"Dating" by Ron Savage
"Twenty Dollars" by Susan Fry
"Time Capsule" by Stephen Volk
"Black Dog" by Joel Lane
"How To Build Your Own Coffin" by Scott Nicholson
"Jury Duty" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
"Scarecrow" by Tom Brennan
"The Beautiful Ones" by Michelle Scalise
"Adjustment" by Luke Scholer
"In the Rundown" by Joe Hill
"Then the Snow Bled In" by Darren Speegle
"Lost In Darkness" by Simon Avery and Ian R. Faulkner
"The Green Lady" by Jay Caselberg
"Friday Nights" by Steve Rasnic Tem
"Is It Better Now?" By Steve Mohn
"Bienvinidos a L.A." by Ryan G. Van Cleave
"Think of a Number" by Andrew Humpherey
I don’t normally read crime fiction, which is why I jumped at the chance to check out Crimewave. I think I’m going to have to read this stuff more often. These stories have everything: exotic locales, reluctant serial killers, beautifully wrought prose, and dark glimpses into man’s inhumanity to man.
In "Dating," Ron Savage gives us a twist on the traditional serial killer tale. As her date begins squeezing her neck, Sarah flashes back to how she met him, taking the reader on a crash course of the dangers of modern dating. Ending in a pointed little twist, this is easily one of the best stories in the bunch.
In "Twenty Dollar Bill," Susan Fry takes us to the south-of-the-border town of Loma Blanca, where a serial killer is raping and murdering women and leaving twenties in their naughty spots. Orlando is the beleaguered detective out to stop it, but he comes into conflict with the thug who runs the town and the women he cares about. For all important things in Loma Blanca pass from woman to woman. A great story in which Fry paints a thought-provoking picture of small town corruption and human insanity.
In "Black Dog," Joel Lane gives us a touching tale of revenge. A husband kills his wife by covering her with hot tar. The tar looks like a sleeping dog lying on the ground, hence the story’s title. What follows is a sad story with a twist ending, one that will stay with you for a long time.
In "Time Capsule," Stephen Volk gives us a bizarre sort of confession by retired school teacher who once killed a little girl who attended her school. He puts a scrap of her clothing into a time capsule his class is making. The story switches back and forth between the making of the time capsule and the man’s life now, taking care of his grandson. I don’t know quite what to make of this story. On the one hand there’s the chance of his crime being discovered. On the other, it might be so far in the future that the man is long dead. In either case, it’s a well-told tale, though I think there are better stories in the collection.
In "How to Build Your Own Coffin," blood and nails is all Scott Nicholson needs to build a weird story about Larry, who is constructing a coffin in his barn. When he’s finished, he goes to meet his girlfriend, Betty Ann, who waits in his truck while he robs a convenience store for her so she can afford to leave the mountains for the city. But there is something Larry wants her to do for him in return, and it’s a short trip back to his barn and the coffin. This is one weird little ditty, sort of William Faulkner meets Joe R. Lansdale. Nicholson’s prose will keep your eyes glued to the page for the finale.
In Kristine Rusch‘s "Jury Duty," a woman fleeing from her past and living under an assumed name gets called in for jury duty at a murder trial, dredging up memories of her own crime. When she is unsuccessful in lying her way off the jury, Pamela goes through the trial and ultimately hangs the jury. But when the prosecuting attorney figures out she lied on her jury questionnaire, and that she lied about her identity, Pamela has a choice to make. Does she run again and let him know that she is guilty of something, or stay and take the risk that he will pursue her story further?
This is a good, solid crime drama story, with an interesting and sympathetic protagonist. It shows the often blurry line between guilt and innocence.
Tom Brennan‘s "Scarecrow" is a quiet little tale of a village seemingly besieged by foreigners (Gypsies?). When their houses are robbed, their chickens taken, and a child murdered, the men of the town decide to take the law into their own hands with a grisly warning for other outsiders who enter their village. This story is a scary glimpse into human evil and a reminder that not all monsters come from storybooks.
In "The Beautiful Ones," Michelle Scalise takes us back in time to Victorian London for the first person tale of a failing poet and playwright who is secretly gay and addicted to chloral, which causes vivid hallucinations. When one of his associates—a more successful playwright named Childe—is arrested for indecency for cavorting with young, male prostitutes, our protagonist must decide whether to publicly come to the aid of his friend, or suffer what he is in silence. Or does the chloral have other plans?
This is a well-written story. Scalise does a wonderful job of painting a different time period for us and has peopled it with sympathetic characters who are fully realized.
The hitman genre is well on its way to becoming cliché, but Luke Scholer‘s "Adjustment" is something unique. Told in first person by a hitman who has fallen in love with a woman, then is hired by his employers to kill her because she is a distraction, Scholer’s story displays powerful writing. And you’ll never guess the touching, yet somewhat dark, ending. Good stuff.
"In the Rundown" is Joe Hill‘s tale of hapless Wyatt, a video store employee who is soon fired after a verbal altercation with a fellow employee. While on his way home through the woods, he comes across a woman who has murdered her youngest son and is in the process of murdering her oldest son. This is a wonderful example of an ordinary joe thrown into extraordinary circumstances.
In "Then The Snow Bled In," Darren Speegle takes us into the life of an American man living in a mountainous village in Germany. While there, he has a tryst with a local barmaid and encounters a sea captain suspected of murder. But I really didn’t decipher much of this odd, ambiguous little tale. Not the best apple in the barrel.
"Lost in Darkness" by Simon Avery and Ian R. Faulkner is a psychological tale of revenge. Charleton’s girlfriend, Aimee, has been badly beaten and lies broken in the hospital. Charleton feels it is because he is black, and his rage at the people who did it manifests violently. Although the split personality/memory loss plot has been done before, Avery and Faulkner put it to good use here. What they came up with is a well-wrought crime tale that is thrilling to read.
In "The Green Lady," Jay Caselberg takes the reader to Prague, the last stronghold of the intellectual and creative elite, for the story of a burgeoning writer abandoning his craft to follow a more grisly muse. There’s just a hint of the supernatural here, but nothing that betrays the magazine’s grim realism. And the protagonist’s dark muse has shades of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. Crazy writer stories are everywhere, but Caselberg does them one better here.
In "Friday Nights," Steve Rasnic Tem takes a peek into the life of a reluctant serial killer cruising the club scene for his next victim. But what finds are slim pickings. Tem’s slightly twisted, yet humorous, take on the dating scene is definitely worth the read.
"Is it Better Now?" by Steve Mohn is another hitman story, though much different from those you find on the big screen. Philly Fischelle is a small town trigger man for a drug dealer named Charles DeCirce. The story opens with him sleeping in his car, waiting to kill someone DeCirce wants out of the way. But when a huge bag of his intended victim’s money appears, Philly has a change of heart. Mohn’s tale is one of redemption. Can a hitman redeem himself? And the situation reads like a Tarantino movie, only without the ridiculous dialogue.
"Bienvinidos a L.A." (Welcome to L.A.) for the Spanish-deprived) is Ryan G. Van Cleave‘s take on good old Hollyweird. Javier is a songwriter who has hit the big time, but when he is accused of grabbing Tina Turner’s breasts in a crowded L.A. nightspot, he gets sick of the music industry grind and steals a truck, driving somewhat aimlessly around town, injures a young man in a bar, and shoots a cop.
This is another story that reminded me of a Tarantino flick, and I don’t even like his movies. It’s a weird turn of events, featuring a deeply flawed yet immensely likable protagonist. Funny and dark at the same time, a hard feat to pull off. Nicely done.
"Think of a Number" by Andrew Humpherey is the tale of an assassin-in-training named Luke, the young protégé of a hired killer named Lenny. Told in first person, it flickers back between Luke’s childhood living with his father after his mother was supposedly taken to an insane asylum, and killings with Lenny. But when Luke learns the truth about his strange past, he decides to be a student no longer.
This tale is nicely told, though the motivations were a bit unclear. It seems that dear old dad had something to do with Luke’s mum’s death, but I was never certain what that connection might be. It’s still a somber, well-written piece, another entry into the dark, grandiose, yet pathetic lives of hitmen.
If you like well-told, literary-style crime and suspense stories, you’ll want to give Crimewave a try. They’re doing stuff within these pages that no one else is trying.