Mystery Tribune Issue No. 4

Mys­tery Tri­bune Issue No. 4
Win­ter 2018
The Mag­a­zine for Mys­tery and Suspense
236 pages
Edit­ed by Ehsan Ehsani

The first sto­ry in the Win­ter 2018 issue of Mys­tery Tri­bune, "A Friend Indeed" by Bren­dan DuBois, effec­tive­ly sets a tone.The dis­cur­sive nar­ra­tor, soft­ware design­er Caleb Willis, tells us every­thing we need to know in the first long sen­tence of the sto­ry: "So after my sec­ond mis­tri­al and my final release from coun­ty prison, I decid­ed to take up walk­ing, since there's not much to do with my life after I had been accused of mur­der­ing my best friend, who also hap­pened to be sleep­ing with my wife, while also in the process of steal­ing my com­pa­ny." After a lit­tle back­track­ing, the sto­ry unfolds neat­ly, fol­low­ing that old dic­tum: the journey's the thing, not the destination.

The sec­ond sto­ry, "The Cur­rent," by Dan J. Fiore, fea­tures one of the best descrip­tions I've ever seen of being acci­den­tal­ly drunk, the details com­ing through loud­ly and in in near-hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry detail. "It feels like there's a wall in Shawn's mind, a brick wall just behind him block­ing out every­thing that came before. Think­ing, remembering–it's like bang­ing against the bricks and the wall moves and shakes and bends and bits get through but not enough to see. Not enough to under­stand." Poor Shawn, a nine-year-old kid, is drunk, found by a father who's incon­sis­tent and a liar at best and ret­ro­grade ass­hole at his worst. Bad shit ensues, but as the sto­ry clos­es, Shawn "knows that hid­den under it all, beyond the dark­ness and chaos, is a place where it's calm and qui­et and final­ly still." This is a sto­ry I didn't expect to like as much as I did in the end.

"Kill One, Get One Free," by David Rachels takes an old saw, the gang­ster mak­ing his bones, and injects some mean lines and life into it. "This was the first moment I under­stood what I was sign­ing up for–what I had already signed up for. It was kill or be killed. At once, killing this old lady seemed like an act of self-defense. I felt my con­science relax." This brings us into the mind­set of our almost-hit­man, but there's still a turn to come, and it's a good one. It also fea­tures my favorite end­ing of the sto­ries I read in this issue, a con­clu­sion both sat­is­fy­ing for the sto­ry and intrigu­ing enough to want to read more about this char­ac­ter. Plus, you hear writ­ers quote some­one famous about the pow­er of the appro­pri­ate­ly placed peri­od; this story's only excla­ma­tion point does the same thing, but better. 

Todd Scott's "Wolf bite" is the third sto­ry to fea­ture a dog promi­nent­ly. This par­tic­u­lar beast is one to remem­ber. "It comes at him fast from the oth­er side of the trail­er. Low to the ground, throw­ing dust and rocks. Head as big as a fuck­ing mail­box. Maybe a dish­wash­er, with a whole din­ner set­ting worth of teeth, shined up bright. It's a fuck­ing shark on brindle legs. Bark­ing its god­damn head off." This is Tom­my Dale Keegan's dog, both dog and own­er bad actors, and the Mid­land Police Depart­ment, in the per­son of Ben Harp­er, has to shoot one of them. The first line tells the sto­ry: Ben Harp­er doesn't shoot the dog, even after he gets bit­ten. This is a real­ly fine piece, dis­cussing both man and dog, and man and woman, the two strains tied togeth­er skill­ful­ly and irre­sistibly. Plus, I'm a suck­er for s good dog story.

A sto­ry of anoth­er kind entire­ly, "Death In Flo­rence" by Nick Kolakows­ki brought me to a place I've nev­er been and plant­ed me square­ly on ter­ra fir­ma. "Despite the con­stant threat of vehic­u­lar slaugh­ter, I love this place: the tall side­walks lined with can­dy-col­ored mope­ds, the impos­ing wood­en doors plas­tered with flak­ing posters, the cries of ambu­lances and spar­rows, the Sene­galese deal­ing post­cards and cheap trin­kets from card­board stands (all the bet­ter to fold away when the Cara­binieri make an appear­ance)." The rest of this well-struc­tured sto­ry details a woman on a quest that isn't all it seems to be, with a twist I didn't see com­ing at all. The best kind of sto­ry, this one demand­ed a reread imme­di­ate­ly to find the clues the author left behind.

"Oil Down," too, relies on set­ting to con­vey its pow­er, par­tic­u­lar­ly in writer Bri­an Silverman's descrip­tions of or men­tions of food. The men­tions range from roti to Carib beer to Stal­lion over­proof rum, but in par­tic­u­lar, oil down, "a one pot stew fea­tur­ing salt­ed meats, greens, pro­vi­sions like bread­fruit or cas­sa­va and cooked slow­ly in coconut oil and coconut milk often served at Sun­day din­ner" all of which sets a scene as capa­bly as any more typ­i­cal descrip­tion of land­scape or peo­ple. The sto­ry itself involves the death of a vagrant, called Filthy Man, and the efforts of a local bar own­er, Len Buon­figlio, a refugee from New York, to solve the pos­si­ble mur­der with the assis­tance of sev­er­al locals. This piece has the feel of a nov­el about it, and one hopes we'll see more of Mr. Len's sto­ry some­where else.

"Dad" by Hugh Fras­er clos­es out the fic­tion in this issue. A short vignette about the narrator's trou­bled rela­tion­ship with his father, this piece deals more with the after­math of a crime than the com­mit­ting of one, and seems a more sub­tle tack to take in the midst of the oth­er more tra­di­tion­al nar­ra­tives in the issue. The sto­ry opens as the nar­ra­tor remem­bers his life with his father. "At least the wait­er has only one taste of his garbage, he has no idea what it was like to live with it for thir­ty sev­en years. Every god­dam thing he ever said to me, since I can remem­ber, was some way of mak­ing him­self feel good at my expense." Need­less to say, this isn't going to end well for any­one involved.

Fic­tion is obvi­ous­ly the main attrac­tion for me, but beside the sto­ries, there's a Q&A with Rick Geary, reveal­ing inter­views with Tom Sweterlisch, Nick Petrie and Sean Phillips, and a review of James Anderson's Lul­la­by Road. Plus, there's an arti­cle by Ele­na Avan­zas Alvarez called "Psy­chopaths in Crime Fic­tion."  I don't know enough about pho­tog­ra­phy to com­ment deeply, but pho­tog­ra­phers Mal­go­rza­ta Sajur and Ash­ley Jon­cas held and reward­ed my inter­est. The added bonus of pho­to illus­tra­tions for each sto­ry is a great thing I wish more jour­nals could afford to do.

Over­all, this is a strong issue of Mys­tery Tri­bune, a mag­a­zine I'll return to in the future. You can sub­scribe for $48 year­ly (four issues) or buy sin­gle copies at www​.mys​tery​tri​bune​.com, and you should if you're inter­est­ed in con­tem­po­rary crime fiction.


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