Chicago Blues hits its mark

Editor Libby Fischer Hellman put together a worthwhile collection of Chicago mystery/crime stories in Chicago Blues, published in 2007.   I can’t believe it took me until 2010 to buy and read the book!

As she wrote, “Some of the twenty-one dark, edgy stories in Chicago Blues are about people who sing the Blues, and some are about people who wear the Blues.”  I meant to do a wrap-up of the stories, as each one seemed even better than the last, but neglected to do so until Jenny reminded me.

Although all 21 of the stories are well-chosen, well-written, and fun to read, the ones that featured music had an edge for me.  I set out to rate the stories, but found that they were so consistently top-notch that my ratings were a series of very fine gradations.  And who’s to say that my four-star stories wouldn’t be five-star in your estimation, and vice-versa?

So, instead, here’s a listing of the short stories and a short comment from me. My top five stories – the ones that made me say “Wow” – are in bold.

  • Blue Note – Stuart M. Kaminsky   Great story with a change-up ending about the nature of love and of singing the blues.
  • O Death Where is Thy Sting – Kevin Guilfoile  Fun for its focus on obsession and twisty ending.
  • Your Sweet Man – Libby Fischer Hellman  O’Henry-esque.
  • Good Evenin’, Blues – Jack Fredrickson  In the shadow of the el, a bar owner struggles to make sense of it all.
  • Publicity Stunts – Sara Paretsky  VI Warshawski plays bodyguard for a right-wing media babe (think Ann Coulter blackmails Oral Roberts)
  • Guarding Lacey – Kris Nelscott  A Smokey Dalton story told from a kid’s POV.
  • Overproof – JA Konrath  A Lt. Jack Daniels story about suicide by cop.
  • The Non Compos Mentis Blues – Sean Chercover  Ray Dudgeon noir.
  • Scrap – Max Allan Collins  Nate Heller in a union mystery with a twist
  • Chasing the Blues – Michael A. Black  Vice cop secrets.
  • Blind Man Blues – Steven B. Mandel  Cop Billy Call carries a torch for his long-missing former flame.  Or is she?
  • A Weekend in the Country – David A. Walker  The blue brotherhood and father-and-son relationships with a bitter edge.
  • A Shade of Blue – Michael Allen Dymmoch  John Thinnes and the return of repressed memories.
  • The Test – Sam Reaves  The nature of friendship in the Outfit.  True blue, but still a downer.
  • My Heroes Have Always Been Short Stops – D.C. Brod  True blue Cubs fan and murder.
  • Code Blue – Mary V. Welk  Vigilante nurse.  A little over the top.
  • The Sin-Eater – Sam Hill  Powerful short story about family redemption.
  • No One – Marcus Sakey  Mr. Ordinary fights his hair-trigger temper, and loses.
  • The Blue Line – Ronald Levitsky  Body guard but all goes wrong
  • Lower Wacker Blues – Brian Pinkerton  Childhood games carried into adulthood lead to tragedy
  • The Lower Wacker Hilton – Barbara D’Amato  Suze Figueroa and Norm Bennis find out that the lowest of the low still own things worth killing for.

If you’ve read the book, take a minute and let me know what stories were your favorites!

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2 responses to “Chicago Blues hits its mark

  1. I like your quick, sentence explanations because they leave me wanting to read it more than a longer review that might be enough to satisfy my curiosity.

    I like the Chicago theme running through (as you would expect by the title).

  2. I agree–this is a great collection of short stories and it pointed me to a few authors whose work I hadn’t read before it came out in 2007, but have since been exploring since (such as Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover).

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