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.