“The Invisible Assistant” by John Gaspard
I’ve read a few mystery short stories over the past couple of years. It seems that long-form mystery writers sometimes struggle to fit a whole mystery, nose to tail, into the form. If John Gaspard struggled with “The Invisible Assistant,” it doesn’t show. This story features Eli Marks, stage magician, amateur crime solver, and main character of three great mystery novels. Yet, no previous Eli Marks experience is required to enjoy this story! Not only do we get a solid mystery, but we get some magic which provides an excellent introduction to the character. I will say that I guessed the solution to this mystery before the end. It seems a little…improbable, but given the tone of the story, it works.
“Flop Sweat” from Shatterday by Harlan Ellison
Harlan Ellison writes speculative fiction. I’ve always liked the designation “speculative fiction” because it embraces anything that isn’t entirely current reality: science fiction, fantasy, and even horror. I don’t generally think of horror when I think of Harlan Ellison, but “Flop Sweat” is a fine piece of tension. Set against a city on edge due to a razor blade killer, radio talk show host Theresa Ketchum’s guests are cultist Brother Darkness and psychiatrist Jacob Theiss. But neither of them are the crazy one. Just how responsible *is* Theresa for what’s going on in Los Angeles?