Murder on Lake Okeechobee by Gary Hoffman is a fun mystery. A body, a fishing boat, and an old grudge are pieces to this puzzle. Detective Brown investigates clues and interviews suspects in a short story you can read here.
In The Wildest One by Brendan DuBois, former child actor Harry Cox finds it difficult to capitalize on his once famous past. His impatient wife, part-time special police officer for their small New Hampshire town, pushes him to attend celebrity reunion events. All Harry wants is to putter around his bakery, which is sliding into the red. The past won't let Harry go, from clueless fans to former co-stars. He's heading straight toward losing everything as the story opens.
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine publishes several series short stories with recurring characters.
Counterpoint, by John H. Dirckx, features Detective Sergeant Fritz Dollinger, Lieutenant Auburn, and several police department personnel familiar to fans of the series. In this story, two neighbors - lawyer Maynard Millikin and doctor Quentin Nieborg - have a longstanding feud over property boundaries, outbuildings, fallen fruit, and noise. Their disagreements have escalated to a ridiculous crescendo, until they both become suspects in the murder of a handyman.
Scrap Drive - A Four Horsemen Story by Loren D. Estleman is another recurring series featuring four police officers. "The squad, colloquially known as the Four Horsemen, affected matching gray fedoras and black topcoats in order to avoid blackjacking one another by mistake in riot situations." At a WWII scrap drive in a public park, a gangster's body rolls off the pile of toasters, iron stoves, bowling trophies, and galvanized pails. The Four Horseman must track down the killer. What they discover is quite a surprise.
This year I had less gardening space than in previous years, focusing almost exclusively on container gardening on my deck. Even so, I had an explosion of late summer produce. I spent more time than typical this year putting up vegetables. For those who don't know the term "putting up" in this context, it refers to preserving food for use in the winter and early spring, before new crops are available.
First I prepared Swiss Chard for freezing. I cleaned and chopped the leaves and stems, then blanched them for 2 minutes in boiling water. I measured out quantities I thought I'd want for meals later into freezer bags. Done!
I have a beautiful crop of jalapenos that's still producing. I decided to get the canning equipment out one more time to preserve this bounty. I just can't eat that many fresh jalapenos at a time. I made baked jalapenos stuffed with cheddar cheese a couple weeks ago, and my husband and I nearly burst into flame. These are some hot peppers!
Canning is the best option. I chose quarter pint canning jars, and a few half pints. Small, usable quantities. Our elder daughter orchestrated the fruit canning and freezing a few weeks back. I decided to go it alone this time.
The recipe warned to wear rubber gloves to avoid getting burned by the capsaicin - the substance in the peppers that makes it hot. I've made the mistake of cutting up jalapenos and then touching my lips. It burns for hours.
Preparing produce for canning takes the lion's share of time. You want some uniformity. I threw in bits of small sweet red peppers for added color, along with a couple red jalapenos.
Next comes cleaning your equipment. It's critical to be sanitary. Those jars might sit in your cupboard for a year and a half. Timing sanitizing the jars and lids, boiling the vinegar, and packing the hot jars with jalapenos is a bit tricky. Finally, they go in the canning bath, a huge pot of boiling water.
After a nervous several minutes (lots of extra minutes at high altitude), I pulled the jars from the water bath and waited.
POP! The first lid sealed. POP POP POP! More lids sealed. That popping is the sound of success. The rubber lined lid has sealed to the glass jar, and will now be safe to place on a cupboard shelf for many months.
My stint as Pioneer Woman is over for the season. I'll put my canning equipment away for another year. Well, unless my bumper crop of tomatoes needs to be canned.....
9/18/2018 1 Comment
Mystery Writers of America
Summer has been busy, but Thursday night I made time to drive to Denver for a gathering of the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. This professional writing group hosts speakers on topics of interest to mystery and crime fiction authors. This month's program featured Sgt. Dean Christopherson from the Denver Police Department.
Sgt. Christopherson brought items from the Denver Police Museum. He spoke about how police officers were at a disadvantage in the early days of American history, hobbled by everything from rules about how to carry their firearms to the inadequacy of small caliber pistols against criminals who possessed military firearms.
He became interested in gathering historical information and artifacts related to police officers, which led to founding the museum. Among the early hats, handcuffs, radio, badges, and pistol he brought to show us, there was also Harry Callahan's badge from the Clint Eastwood movie Dirty Harry. Sgt. Christopherson spoke about the important role movies have had in accurately portraying police work.
It was an interesting evening, and well worth the drive. More photos below.
9/13/2018 0 Comments
Short Story Reviews: Not Fall Yet
Until September 22, it is still summer. I am disappointed in people who hasten the seasons along. It’s bad enough the stores start selling the accouterments for holidays two or three months off. I was not upset, though, when my September/October issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine arrived in late August.
The first story is The Chinese Box, by R. T. Lawton. This is a welcome addition to the series starring the unnamed Chinese son of an opium warlord. Our hero is a good guy making the most of a bad situation. When his mother died, he had to leave education and big city life to join his father’s business. He and his elder half-brother Kang engage in an ongoing battle to inherit the title of warlord from their father one day. One of my favorite characters is the man only called “my old Mon scout.” All during a trip to transport raw opium to factories for processing, our hero attempts to open a puzzle box. Each brother has been gifted a box by their father. Opening the box is clearly a test. But first priority is escaping bandits and the armies of rival warlords while traveling through the Thai jungle. Learn more about the story in Lawton’s article on Sleuth Sayers.
I enjoyed Casting Call, by James Lincoln Warren. This story read like an old episode of the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents, although it is set in contemporary times. It had a very cinematic feel, which was appropriate to the Hollywood setting and the casting of a part for a minor movie.
Another story I enjoyed in this issue was Unity Con by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. This is the second story I have read in AHMM starring Spade, the pseudonym for a guy much like those you find at gaming and s/f conventions, who doubles as a private eye. Rusch addresses the recent turmoil in the world of science fiction as fans seek to either escalate political correctness to a painful pitch, or maintain the status quo. When a group of writers decides to hold a convention demonstrating inclusiveness, Spade notes they are “forgetting, or perhaps never realizing, that fandom had always welcomed everyone. From the differently abled to people of color, fandom has always kept its doors open.” Spade investigates a murder against this backdrop. If you have ever attended a s/f convention, or are a member of fandom, you’ll feel at home in Rusch’s story.
To learn more about the stories in AHMM, and about mystery fiction in general, check out editor Linda Landrigan’s blog, Trace Evidence.
Before heading to the airport on a business trip, I had the foresight to grab a couple back issues of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. During the flights, and while in my hotel room, I finished reading the May/June and July/August issues.
Starting with May/June, I read Shopping for Fun and Profit by Neil Schofield. Mrs. Minchin, recently widowed, rants about how much she hates supermarkets. She describes shoppers as “Poor benighted things, shopping in an Inner Circle of Hell, guided by spirit voices.” I was several pages in, wondering if there was a point to the story, but enjoying the humor. Lines like “I try to do my little bit of shopping when there are no mothers about with their countless screaming ankle-biters, when the cereals section becomes the true Home of British Horror,” kept me going. There is a point to the story, and as is fitting with AHMM, it does involve a crime. I laughed out loud on the airplane, safe in the knowledge that my fellow passengers wore ear buds and were focused on the screens of their smart phones.
In One-Day Pass, by B. K. Stevens, we learn there is paperwork in the afterlife. “’With that, and with all the orientation sessions and getting-to-know-you games, they keep you pretty busy.’” A private investigator’s deceased partner comes back from the dead on a one-day pass. He is not seeking revenge for his own murder, which puzzles the living PI. The dead PI was a hard-drinking womanizer, the stereotype of the fictional PI. His living partner has allowed his wife to decorate the office with plants, which rather horrifies the dead PI. This is a terrific story that kept me guessing until the end.
The July/August AHMM issue contained plenty of entertainment for my travels. Not My Circus. . . by Josh Pachter is a very short story. Jeffrey and Sally’s marriage of four years has ground to an unsatisfying emotional end. If he divorces her, the townhouse mortgage is in her name, and he has no hope of enjoying his current lifestyle on his auto mechanic income. The title, half of an old Polish saying from Jeffrey’s grandfather, places a recurring role in the story.
The cover story of the July/August issue is The Black Drop of Venus, by Mark Thielman. Also winner of the Black Orchid Novella Award, this historical mystery is set on the HMS Endeavour with Captain James Cook. When a botanist is murdered on board, scientist Joseph Banks is ordered by the captain to solve the mystery before he will be allowed to go ashore on Tahiti to collect plant and animal samples. Banks gathers clues and interviews shipmates reluctant to cooperate.
I was grateful to have great reading material on my trip. Business travel can be tedious, but the miles flew by with my copies of AHMM firmly in hand.
There's not enough summer in the Colorado Rockies. I want to linger in the remaining warm days, taking advantage of weather that permits activities we'll miss this winter. We spent a few nights star gazing, and a few mornings sipping tea, on our deck. I have begun harvesting the vegetables that I planted months ago. My husband has his bathhouse on our mountain property halfway completed. What else is on our summer to-do list? Hiking!
One weekend, friends invited us to go hiking. When we arrived, they opened a map to Mount Huron.
Colorado has 53 fourteeners - mountains with an elevation above 14,000 feet. My husband and I have climbed several, but that was a few years ago. When our friends unfurled the map, and we realized the hike they proposed, we both considered taking a less challenging hike to a lake.
Caught up in the youthful enthusiasm of the young adults present, and Donna's determination to summit her first 14er, we decided to hike to tree line.
Timberline, or tree line, is the elevation where trees no longer grow. In Colorado, that is around 11,000 - 12,000 feet. That's a respectable height to climb to on steep trails and in the oxygen thin air.
We reached the boulder field that defined tree line on Mount Huron.
After resting near a small mountain lake, we had three options. Continue on, wait at tree line for our friends to return from the summit, or return to camp.
My husband opted to wait at tree line. I continued to the summit. Below are photos of the view from the top.
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