My week 24 read for Deal Me In – “Fallen Idols” by Andrea Smith

Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge now in its fourth year. While there are variations, my approach is to – before the start of the year – come up with a list of fifty-two stories to read, assigning each to a card in a standard deck of playing cards. Draw one card a week and read that story. You’ll be done in a year. If I have favorite genres of stories or favorite authors I’m focusing on, I sometimes group them together in a suit of the deck (e.g., spades are for ‘darker’ stories). As of this writing, I plan to host this challenge again next year. If you’d like to see more details, check out the sign-up post from last December. If you’d like to see my list of stories for this year, they are listed here.

hoosier hoops

I’ve come to love the role that a random reading order plays in the challenge as it often seems to deal up just the right story at just the right time. Sometimes, however, the randomness can be frustrating if there is a story or stories you’re especially anticipating. This happened to me to a degree in 2015, as I included three stories from an intriguing anthology, “Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks” – a collection of basketball-related mysteries written by Indiana authors. I even met a few of them at a local library’s “Author Day” last year. (The Greenwood Public Library, pictured below – just a few miles down the road from me) Two of them signed my copy of the book, so I added their two stories and one other to my Deal Me In roster and eagerly awaited their being drawn. And waited. Finally last week, almost halfway into the year I drew one of them, the eight of hearts, and got to read Andrea Smith’s story “Fallen Idols.”

“Fallen Idols” follows the investigative efforts of Dectective Lenora Wise as she investigates the murder of Indiana Pac… Er, I mean Indianapolis Titans star basketball player, Bryce Cooper. Found shot dead in a nightclub’s parking lot after being the hero in a big playoff game, it turns out Cooper and his lifestyle (publicly squeaky-clean, but privately pretty unsavory) provide no shortage of suspects to the detective and her partner. As someone who doesn’t often read mysteries, I found myself falling for a couple of the misdirections early in the story as I searched for my prime suspect. I wonder if a more experienced reader of mysteries like my fellow Deal Me In participant Tracy at Bitter Tea And Mystery still has this problem? I suppose the best mystery stories are the ones that pull off these misdirections successfully.

I also liked that the story was set in Indianapolis, a city I’m quite familiar with. It’s always fun (for me) to read a story set in a familiar setting since that doesn’t happen too often in my reading travels. Those of you who follow sports or especially NBA basketball are already aware that we had some problems with our team’s behavior about ten years ago (see above). This fact maybe added a little to my appreciation of this story as well, as the more sordid side of Cooper’s life began to become known. It also occurred to me while reading that a mystery must be even tougher to pull off in short story format than most other genres. It seems by definition more information would have to be imparted to the reader in just a few pages, which may not leave as much space “just for writing.” This particular story, at 26 pages, was the longest in the anthology, from which I’ve since read an additional story ad hoc (I.e., not part of my Deal Me In challenge) and am looking forward to the rest. If you’re interested in this anthology, it’s available at Amazon and at other places enumerated on the Speed City Sisters in Crime website

Below: My signed copy of the story. Plus, I got a bookmark!🙂

fallen idols signed

What about you? Are you fond of reading mysteries in the short story form? Do you have any favorites you’d recommend to a novice mystery reader (I’m not counting all those Hardy Boys Mysteries I read as a kid) such as myself?

Hoosier basketball legends playing cards? I must find and purchase these!

6 Comments

  1. June 15, 2015 at 10:52 am

    I’ve noticed in reading the anthology of boxing mysteries that the short story format can be sometimes be not long enough to hold as much story as it should. Several of the stories have felt really abbreviated. In a Michael Chabon essay I read recently, he points out just how well Conan Doyle pulls off full mysteries in his Sherlock Holmes stories, most of which are less than 10K words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      June 15, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Excellent comment. I hadn’t thought of Conan Doyle stories when working on this post, even though I “read through them all” at one time.

      My story was one of the longest I’ve read this year and maybe the mystery it covered could have filled up a novel. For my part, I think I would’ve liked to have read more about it.

      Like

  2. tracybham said,

    June 15, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    This post was interesting on multiple levels, Jay. It is true that when you read a lot of mysteries, sometimes you guess where the plot is going early on, regardless of misdirection. I find that more disappointing in short stories than in novels because the novel may have more layers than just the mystery. I think mystery plots are probably harder to handle in short stories and maybe that is why a lot of the short stories I have run into in mystery anthologies are not really mysteries but more just about aspects of crime. Still very enjoyable though. And I am still an inexperienced reader of short stories.

    I enjoyed this post because I used to be a big basketball fan and I do know how big basketball is in Indiana. (My husband grew up in Ohio and had relatives in Indiana.) I gave up on Pro Basketball after a few scandals had surfaced and after a couple of strikes that interfered with the season.

    The Deal Me In Challenge has been a great experience for me, Jay. A perfect way to get over my aversion to short stories.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      June 16, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks for sharing your insight regarding mysteries, Tracy. I just don’t have that much experience reading them. Yet.

      Yes, basketball is almost like a religion here in Indiana. Another book I read this year but haven’t blogged about, called “Zombie Indiana” features a protagonist who’s a former basketball star whose career was cut short due to injury, allowing him to become a sheriff’s deputy (so he could fight zombies it turned out). I was a zealous fan in my youth and remember the great Indiana University teams and also the Larry Bird-led Indiana State Sycamore’s improbable run to the national championship game in 1978/9. I think I watched every game on tv.

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the challenge and stuck with it. I think next year, I’ll suggest the bi-weekly version to new participants, since there always seems to be a high ‘mortality’ rate amongst those who accept the ‘full challenge’…🙂

      Like

  3. Dale said,

    June 15, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Jay, there is an annual Best American Mystery Stories series and a Best American Mystery Stories of the Century. I haven’t looked to see what stories they include. I’ve enjoyed Dennis LeHane’s novels in recent years like “Mystic River” (which was also a great movie) and “Shutter Island” (great book but incredibly difficult to put on screen – which Marin Scorsese tried to do). I find mysteries sometimes difficult to appreciate.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      June 16, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      I may have mentioned before that (I think it was) Asimov wrote a series of mysteries centered around some kind of ‘gentleman’s club’ where the members try to figure it out but it always being the servant who sees through to the true answer. I’m going to have to investigate that and put it back on my to read pile.

      I do recall seeing – now that you mention it – the Best American Mystery Stories anthologies. Maybe one would provide good fodder for a future Deal Me In suit of mine…

      Like


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