Hilary Davidson has become quite well known for her traditionally published novels, but she got her start in online and small press publications devoted to short crime fiction. Now Davidson has collected nine of them in The Black Widow Club: Nine Tales of Obsession and Murder. The title story is from Needle, and it asks if murder can be a family tradition. It’s hard to pick a favorite here, but I really like the idea of a dead man trying to solve his own murder in “Undying Love.” Davidson continues to publish short stories both at online sites like Beat to a Pulp and in traditional formats such as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
One new anthology appropriate to the season is The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler. Big is the right word for this massive volume, nearly 70 stories in ten categories (“A Pulpy Little Christmas,” “A Traditional Little Christmas,” “A Sherlockian Little Christmas,” and so on). Familiar favorites like Doyle’s “The Blue Carbuncle” mingle with lesser-known works by John D. MacDonald (“Dead on Christmas Street”), and current greats like Ed Gorman (“The Christmas Kitten”) consort with classic stars like Rex Stout (“Christmas Party”). If you’re looking for a surefire Christmas gift, here it is.
Otto Penzler is the editor of Kwik Krimes, which contains even more stories than his Big Book of Christmas Mysteries collection (over 80). These stories, however, are shorter, as the title would indicate. In fact, they’re all told in fewer than a thousand words. Penzler plucked some of them from electronic magazines and commissioned others. They’re all fast and fun. As the blurb says, they “come and go as quickly as a gunshot.” (Disclaimer: I have a story in this book.)
Early Crimes by Max Allan Collins isn’t strictly a short story collection. Instead, it’s two stories and a short novel that will be of particular interest to anyone wanting to see work from the beginning of the writer’s career. The two stories were written in the late 1960s, though not published at the time. One of them, “Public Servant,” is in the Jim Thompson vein, and very effectively so. The other is a sort of Mickey Spillane/James M. Cain mash-up that’s interesting in its own right.
The first book I ever read by Loren D. Estleman was a Sherlock Holmes novel, so I was glad to see a new story by him in Sons of Moriarty and More Stories of Sherlock Holmes, which he also edited. It’s the title story, and the coda gives hope that there will be more in this vein.