“Mrs. Lin’s Art of Tea” by Naomi Hirahara
Mrs. Lin’s daughter is marrying up in LA’s tight knit Chinese community. Only the groom’s mother, Mrs. Chan, considers her family a nuisance. Mrs. Chin endures insults, condescension, and attempted blackmail at the hands of her daughter’s wealthy mother-in-law. And then she gets a job in a local herb shop. And she gets ideas. Oh, does she get ideas.
“The Ride Home” by Jim Thomsen
A young girl in the rural Washington gets stranded by her degenerate boyfriend. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s rainy. And it’s a long way from home. When an odd gentleman picks her up, first she’s grateful, then she’s suspicious. Is she right? Is she paranoid? And will it end badly? Thomsen waits for the final five paragraphs to let it all play out. In the meantime, you go back and forth between a girl in the clutches of a killer on the road and someone about to make a horrible mistake.
“Surf City” by Steve Brewer
Detective Kevin Brommer returns to the scene where his surfing career ended in the jaws of a shark. So when another surfer washes up with all the signs of being a great white’s lunch, he’s not particularly thrilled. Nor does he appreciate his publicity-minded sergeant telling him to keep it under wraps. Like Jaws, Santa Cruz worries that a shark would be bad for business. But as time goes on, Brommer starts to wonder if it was actually a shark. After all, you tend to know what that’s like when you’ve spent some quality time in a shark’s mouth.
“The Law of Inverse Consequences” by Karla Stover
Modern bankers should be so lucky no one’s tried to bludgeon them to death. It’s the Great Depression, and someone has bludgeoned banker Richard Calvert to death. Stover provides no shortage of suspects in and around a Hooverville full of people screwed over by Calvert. In the end, you still wonder who did it.
“Sydney Ducks” by RT Lawton
Like me and Steve Brewer, RT Lawton chooses the Bay Area for his setting, this time San Francisco of the 19th century. Sydney Ducks are Irish immigrants who arrived in San Francisco by way of the penal colonies in Australia. The narrator is a young boy who helps his uncle (who may not be his uncle) rob a Chinaman’s house. He here’s a noise in the house, and suddenly everything goes horribly wrong. Lawton does a good job painting a portrait of a San Francisco that no longer exists, though the infamous tongs still cast a shadow today.
“Fred Menace, Commie for Hire” by Steve Hockensmith
Fred Menace is all about the Revolution. No, not the one with Ben Franklin and George Washington. Fred is big on Lenin and Marx. But he’s a private eye, and until the workers’ paradise arrives, a man’s gotta make a living. So Fred takes a job looking for John Smith, good communist, target of the HUAC hearings of 1947, and possibly the worst screenwriter in Hollywood. As bad as Smith may be, a producer wants his script badly. And he’s willing to kill to get it. This parody is equal part Spillane and Trotsky. Of course it’s a parody. How many shapely blondes do you know named Miss Shapely?