by Robert Lopresti
I read a lot of short mystery stories. I like them, plus they are
market research. And of course I need them to create this and this.
By coincidence, in
the last week I read two tales about tough, world-weary homicide cops.
One was pretty good. The other was - meh. I didn't bother
finishing it. Naturally, I was curious about why one worked, for
me, and the other didn't.
I am not going to identify the story I didn't like - what would be
the point? But the story I did enjoy was "Rizzo's Good Cop," by Louis
Manfredo. It appears in the December issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
The story I didn't like is about an obvious murder. Manfredo's is about a
suspicious death. Did the vic jump out the window, fall, or get
But that's not the important difference between the stories. Here is what I concluded about that.
In the other story we are told the cop is weary, that the job is
soul-killing, that he's frustrated, that things don't make sense.
In Manfredo's story the two police detectives take beer out of the
victim's fridge and help themselves. Rizzo, our hero, says "We got us a
murder here, buddy. A genuine, twelve-hour-a-day pain in the ass
murder." When a female cop jokingly asks "So whatcha got for me,
honey?" Rizzo replies "Thirty years ago, plenty."
You see the point? Very similar character. But one story tells. The other shows.
It's an old rule of story-telling (uh, story-showing?). And like all
such rules, it isn't true every time. But in this case it makes all
the difference to me.