18 October 2014
Fifty Mysteries by John M. Floyd, Master of the Mystery Short
by Elizabeth Zelvin
The stories in Fifty Mysteries, almost half of which first appeared in Woman's World, avoid many of the tropes that crime fiction relies on. These fifty stories about the cases of Sheriff Chunky Jones and his former fifth-grade schoolteacher, Angela Potts, can't be called page-turners, because they're only seven hundred words long, not counting the solution to the mystery of the embedded clue. The protagonists are not psychologically tormented or even flawed, unless you count Sheriff Jones's figure ("Don't call me Chunky.") The stories eschew graphic sex and violence. They aren't long enough to twist or develop subplots or relationship arcs. Yet each one is a gem that has all a successful mystery needs: the elegant structure of crime, investigation, and fair-play solution, a setting that manages to be fully realized without many explicit details, and two extremely likable protagonists. The sheriff provides the cases, and the clever and observant Ms. Potts solves them.
Each of these elegantly executed flash stories is a solve-it-yourself puzzle, and the book's format discourages cheating by providing the solutions in a separate section at the end. I opened the volume with some trepidation, afraid I would find that Angela Potts is smarter than I am. To my relief, I was able to solve most of the mysteries without peeking--but by no means all of them. John Floyd is a pretty smart guy himself. May he never run out of puzzles--and I bet he won't--and may Ms. Angela Potts live forever--and I bet she will!
John Floyd's short stories and features have appeared in more than 200 different publications. A former Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, he won a Derringer Award in 2007 and has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. John is also the author of five collections of short mystery fiction: Rainbow's End (2006), Midnight (2008), Clockwork (2010), Deception (2013), and Fifty Mysteries (coming in October 2014). He and his wife Carolyn live in Mississippi. More information about John and his writing can be found at www.johnmfloyd.com.
Posted by Elizabeth Zelvin at 00:01