HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What could be cooler than a sneak preview? And that's exactly what we have here today—courtesy of the fab Malice Domestic. As they say in TV news: Shawn Reilly Simmons has the story. Er, stories. Er, short stories.
SHAWN: This just in! (Couldn’t resist.) After a fifteen year hiatus, Malice Domestic is pleased to announce the return of their annual short story anthologies. Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional, published by Wildside Press, will be released during Malice 28 (April 29 – May 1, 2016). The anthology includes twenty-two original stories and one modern classic reprint, each representing their own take on the “cozy” style of mystery, those in the tradition of Agatha Christie.
HANK: And the amazing Barb Goffman and Verena Rose and Rita Owens edited, (Barb really made my story shine--what a terrific line and developmental editor. And they all worked so hard--putting together an anthology is a huge job) and Katherine Hall Page wrote the thoughtful introduction. What a treat. The stories are hilarious. Clever—and very specific.
SHAWN: Yes, definitely!. The stories all have to do with some type of gathering or convention. But turns out, like any good anthology there’s a wide range of stories, from historical pieces to modern takes on fun gatherings.
HANK: Psst. Sneak preview! Here are just a few samples. And you can tell, even from this, how amazingly different they are!
THE PERFECT PITCH
Before you begin to feel sorry for me, don’t. I’m here for an
inventors’ convention with my lint-collecting dryer sheet
prototype, the Lint-Locker—the guaranteed way to ensure your
laundry doesn’t get covered in lint—so I can meet James Maguire
O’Reilly, megastar inventor. As soon as I’d found out he was going
to be running workshops and hearing inventor pitches—something
he never does—I’d registered, even though it meant coming to
Maine in January. I signed up for every one of his morning
workshops, and I’m going to make sure he notices me. He’s going
to love my product and help me get financial backing for it. All he
needs is to hear my pitch.
Soon enough I’ve found my destination, a chain hotel on the
edge of town. It has cookies in the lobby, racks of brochures, and a
“I’m here for the inventors’ convention,” I say when I catch the
front desk clerk’s eye.
The Vanishing Wife
“My wife has vanished.”
This was the last thing Frank Malloy had expected his welldressed
client to say. When rich men came to his Confidential
Inquiries office in Greenwich Village, they were usually concerned
with marital infidelities or dishonest employees.
“What do you mean, she vanished?”
Delwood Hooper rubbed a well-manicured hand over his pale
face. “I came home last evening, as usual, but my wife wasn’t there
to greet me. I asked our butler where she was, and he informed me
that she had left town.”
“Then she didn’t exactly vanish,” Frank said, settling back in
his chair. He was still breaking it in since it, like everything else in
his office, was brand new. “Didn’t he tell you where she went?”
“That’s the problem, you see. Marjorie occasionally does go
out of town to visit friends or relations, but she always leaves me a
note telling me exactly where she went and when she will return.
This time, she didn’t.”
Two Birds with One Stone
“The pipes are playing to celebrate the Gathering of the Clans,”
I said. “Binky felt we should do the right thing with visitors from
all over Scotland coming together here. It’s a great honor, you
know, to be chosen to host the annual Gathering of the Clans. It
only comes to us about every twenty years. I was a toddler last time
it happened in 1913, but I vaguely remember all the fuss and that I
was terrified of those huge men in kilts and ran back to Nanny.”
“Huge men in kilts?” Queenie perked up at this.
“They’ll all be wearing traditional Highland dress for the
“What sort of games?” She was looking quite interested now.
“The Highland Games are the main part of the gathering,”I
explained. “You know, they toss the caber and throw the hammer.
All sorts of feats of strength.”
“They have strong feet?” she asked, puzzled.
I tried not to laugh. “No, I meant contests to demonstrate how
strong they are. You can go down and watch them practicing later,
if you like. My brother has set aside the meadow beyond the
stables as a practice field. Oh, and speaking of my brother, I have
to go and inspect the facilities after breakfast to make sure all is in
order. You know how—” I broke off. I had been going to say “You
know how hopeless he is about organizing things,” but one does
A Dark and Stormy Light
A few years ago, while I was still a graduate student, I began
attending Asian History conferences. At the fateful gathering I will
always think of as The Conference, we didn’t fill up the entire
hotel. Instead, we found ourselves sharing the space with a mystery
If I’m being true to the story, I need to say that it began on a
dark and stormy night. If it hadn’t been for that storm, the whole
fiasco would have been avoided.
The Clue in the Blue Booth
Hank Phillippi Ryan
I touched the flowered silk scarf tied around my neck, and the
strand of pearls underneath. It’s not usually necessary for me to go
undercover to blend into a crowd, because my whole life is
undercover. But coming here in costume had seemed prudent, and
now, surveying the lobby, the line of registration desks, and the
vast convention floor, it turned out my costume was not only
prudent, but hilarious. It was like being in a massive hall of
Blond wigs—or, on some, I supposed, real blond hair—scarves
and pearls and twin-set cashmere sweaters, stockings, and sensible
shoes. Plaid skirts. Some women carried magnifying glasses, and
some, like me, wore little vintage hats tilted rakishly over one eye.
A fluttering canvas banner suspended from the erector-set
ceiling announced why we were all dressed that way, and why we
were here—not exactly why I’m here, of course, but why the rest of
them were here. NANCY DREW CONVENTION, it trumpeted.
They’d included a huge graphic portrayal of the iconic silhouette of
the 1930s girl sleuth, all waved hair and cloche hat and pearls and
cardigan. Just like me.
Just like all the attendees, because all were requested to dress as
Nancy Drew. Clearly, these women followed directions. The
organizers had promised a big-time surprise guest speaker, and as
of now, word hadn’t leaked about who that would be. Not even to
me, which was somewhat unnerving. I don’t like surprises.
A Gathering of Great Detectives
by Shawn Reilly Simmons
“What’s going on here today?” Detective Murphy asked,
making eye contact with his partner briefly before turning his gaze
back to the couple. “Are you having some kind of event or
something?” He glanced at their vintage clothes and Mrs. Adams’s
hair, which was curled and sprayed into place. They looked like
they’d stepped out of one of those old black-and-white movies his
mother was always watching. Mr. Adams wore a tux with a white
bow tie and Mrs. Adams was in a shimmery black evening gown
with a string of pearls around her neck. They were pretty decked
out, especially for noon on a Saturday.
Mrs. Adams placed a hand lightly on her chest and said, “It’s
our annual convention, A Gathering of Great Detectives.” She
waved at a wooden table along the far wall of the foyer near the
reception desk. A few leather badge holders with names written on
yellowing paper tucked inside were lined up on the table. “We
gather every year, about sixty of us, and solve a mystery.”
“Murder,” Mr. Adams boomed from behind her, causing his
wife to jump slightly.
“Yes, murder, that’s right, dear,” she said. “We’re different
from the average murder mystery weekend though. Attendees must
appear as their favorite detective and stay in character all weekend,
or until the mystery is solved.”
HANK and SHAWN: We bet you cannot wait to get your hands on one of hese! Friday night during Malice, right after the live charity auction, there will be a special signing event for the contributing authors, over twenty in total. We hope to see you there!
However, Murder Most Conventional is also available for pre-order (http://tinyurl.com/hku7k6p) For more info about Malice visit us at www.MaliceDomestic.org
HANK: And we’ll give a copy, of course, as a prize to one lucky commenter! This’ll be easy, since you don’t actually have to write the story—where would you sent a short story that had to be about a convention? I first contemplated a convention of convention planners.
Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of the Red Carpet Catering mystery series published by Henery Press. The third book in the series, Murder on a Designer Diet will be released June 7th. Shawn is a member of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors and a contributing author to the Murder Most Conventional anthology.