Friday, 24 August 2018 21:27

Florida Happens: Tales of Mystery, Mayhem, and Suspense from the Sunshine State edited by Greg Herren (Three Rooms Press) $15.99.

Florida is, often, a state of mind, as this well-curated short story anthology proves.

Edited by award-winning author Greg Herren, with an introduction by comic mystery writer Tim Dorsey, who writes the Serge A. Storm series, Florida Happens plunges the reader into the oddity, eccentricities, and humor that we who live in Florida sometimes take for granted.

Florida Happens is the 2018 Bouchercon anthology, an annual collection to showcase the region where the conference takes place.

This year Bouchercon will be September 6 to 9 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

As usual, a portion of the anthology’s proceeds go to charity. This year the beneficiary is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that provides free books to children from birth to school age regardless of family income. A personal mission of Dolly Parton, the Imagination Library fosters literacy, a love of reading, and is meant to inspire children to succeed.

I think Dolly would approve of this eclectic collection that nails what life in Florida can be.

It’s interesting that many of the authors are not from Florida, or have never lived in the Sunshine State.

Hopefully, a few have at least set a foot or two in Florida.

Despite this, Florida Happens is very Florida-centric, from the descriptions of the beaches and canals to the seedy parts that seemingly rise from nowhere.

While some people may think a few stories stretch credibility, well…those people don’t live in Florida.

Frozen iguanas falling from the trees and then reviving in warmer weather? Yep, happens many a winter.

An alligator living in a canal behind a home and becoming like a pet? It happens, though most people want those gators gone.

An illegal trade in tortoises? Unfortunately, does happen.

Fake hit men? Oh, yeah, though the “customer” usually is a grandmother.

Alligators in purses? A good way to stop purse thieves.

Straight men who make a living as drag queens. Yep.

Each story is a standout, some more than others.

Here are a few of my favorites:

In Herren’s “Cold Beer No Flies,” a young man seethes with revenge in a trailer, never forgetting those slights from high school.

Susanna Calkins gives us a look at Palm Beach in the 1920s in “Postcard for the Dead."

Married retirees are energized by a vacation at a down-at-its-heels motel in Eleanor Cawood Jones’ “All Accounted for at the Hooray for Hollywood Motel.”

A selfie, a drag queen, and a distraught father interrupt an FBI agent’s weekend in Neil Plakcy’s “Southernmost Point.”

Florida is the final frontier for a runaway wife in Patricia Abbott’s “When Agnes Left her House.”

Pete Fernandez, the hero of Alex Segura’s series, has a run-in at a Coral Gables bar in “Quarters for the Meter.”

A nurse with a keen sense of justice turns sleuth in Debra Lattanzi Shutika’s “Frozen Iguana.”

Florida Happens at Bouchercon
Oline H. Cogdill
Wednesday, 22 August 2018 17:21

Locked Room Murders is a bibliography containing a description of the problem and, separately, the solution to locked room and impossible crime novels and short stories.

It has been a classic in the locked room pantheon for over 40 years, beginning with a 1972 article by Bob Adey in The Armchair Detective. The first edition of Locked Room Murders, published by Ferret Fantasy in 1979, covered 1280 items. The 1991 second edition, published by Crossover Press, covered 2019 items.

Due to limited print runs, both editions have become prohibitively expensive. Locked Room International (LRI) is now making a revised version of the Second Edition available at an affordable price. Edited by Brian Skupin, LRI consultant and co-publisher of Mystery Scene magazine, this revised version contains the same 2019 items, but with corrections and additional references which have appeared since 1991.

Get the revised edition here.

Plans are in place to publish a Supplemental Edition in 2019, to include novels and short stories (including translations from sources outside the Anglosphere) published since 1991, films, TV series, graphic novels, and other media. It will not contain any of the items in the Second Edition, Revised.

If you have a favorite locked room mystery--or other impossible crime story, whether it be a novel, short story, film, TV show, etc--that you'd like to see included in the Supplemental Edition, please email the details here:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Locked Room Murders
Brian Skupin
Sunday, 19 August 2018 11:26

I sometimes joke that everything I’ve learned since college is because I read mysteries. I will use that sentence time and again as mysteries teach me something I didn’t know.

The latest addition to my education is a dark sky park, which Lori Rader-Day utilizes so well in her latest Under a Dark Sky.

I had never heard of a dark sky park before.

For those, such as myself, unfamiliar with this, a dark sky park is where light is kept to an absolute minimum so that stargazers can enjoy the delights of the night sky without light pollution.

What a cool way to be one with nature.

It also makes for a terrific setting for a mystery about a woman who suffers from an extreme fear of the dark that has heightened since her husband’s death. In sorting through his papers, she finds that he had booked a week at a dark sky park for their 10th anniversary. It’s an odd gift indeed, but also the push the grieving widow needs.

Rader-Day has invented the Straits Point International Dark Sky Park in Michigan as the setting for her novel. The beauty of the dark sky that she shows is what can be enjoyed at dozens of similar nocturnal environments at recreation areas throughout the world.

Under a Dark Sky delivers a shrewd plot that moves briskly to a logical conclusion. The darkness of the park also is a sharp metaphor for the emotions and secrets of the realistic characters.

By the way, Rader-Day has proven herself a strong author with plots that draw you in and believable characters. No wonder she has won several awards. Her debut mystery, The Black Hour, won the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the 2015 Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her second novel, Little Pretty Things, won the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and was a nominee for the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original.

Her novel The Day I Died is nominated for an Anthony Award in the paperback original category for Bouchercon 2018, which will be September 6 through 9 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Straits Point International Dark Sky Park is a fictional place. The Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw, Michigan, provided the model for Rader-Day.

Information about other dark sky parks around the world can be accessed at, which also gives a list of other such parks.

And I have one suggestion for those wanting to visit a dark sky park—take a copy of Lori Rader-Day’s Under a Dark Sky. The novel will enhance your visit.

Lori Rader-Day Is Under a Dark Sky Park
Oline H Cogdill