Three More by EDWARD D. HOCH
by Mike Tooney:

    For Part One of this series, go here.


4. “Toil and Trouble.” First appearance: Shakepearean Whodunnits, edited by Mike Ashley. Carroll & Graf, trade paperback, November 1997.

    “The bodies of the two grooms were bloodied everywhere from MacBeth’s dagger, yet the wounds of the King himself barely bled at all.”
    “How is this possible? … Is it enchantment? A sign from heaven?”

COMMENTS:   In the days of political turmoil that gripped medieval Scotland, someone vows to end the struggle once and for all; if that means murdering one’s way to the top, so be it.

    When the King dies, the innocent grooms are blamed; but the would-be killer is unaware that he has murdered a dead man, and the killer’s wife, despite all appearances, is not a suicide but the victim of a carefully contrived murder scheme.

NOTES:   This was Hoch’s contribution to a Shakespearean-themed anthology in which various authors converted the Bard’s works into whodunnits. Hoch manages to mimic Shakespeare’s cadences fairly well and makes “the Scottish play” into a good little murder mystery.


5. “Money on the Red.” First appearance: Show Business is Murder, an MWA anthology edited by Stuart M. Kaminsky. Berkley, hardcover, August 2004; paperback, August 2005.

    “So you’re a performance artist?”
    “When I’m performing in a museum it’s art, when I’m in an Off-Broadway theater it’s show business.”

COMMENTS:   They say that to make it big in show biz you need an effective gimmick. Wanda Cirrus’s gimmick is highly unusual: She is a living roulette wheel ball; you know, the wheel spins round and a white ball skitters to a stop on a certain red or black numbered slot — only in Wanda’s case, she’s the ball.

    At least the pay is good, but when a shady gentleman approaches her with a scheme to beat the system she yields to temptation; soon, however, someone is stabbed to death and Wanda realizes she’s in too deep. They also say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas; Wanda knows that, unless she’s very clever, she’ll stay in Vegas — permanently.

NOTES: This one has a nice little twist ending; Hoch rarely disappoints the reader.


6. “Christmas Crossing.” First appearance: Blood on the Holly, edited by Caro Soles. Baskerville Press, Canada, trade paperback, October 2007.

    “You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here. Does it have anything to do with Christmas?”
    Monica took a sip of her beer. “I’m meeting the three wise men.”

COMMENTS:   Matos (first name? last?) owns a little bar attached to a hotel situated on Beaver Island, in the St. Lawrence River; since it’s almost Christmas, he’s rather surprised when several strangers check in during the off season.

    Pleasantly surprising, as well, is the appearance of an old flame he had known from before the fall of the Iron Curtain, but clearly she has something to hide. Presently someone is murdered, and Matos finds himself facing the muzzle of a dead man’s gun.

NOTES:   The story’s pace is hampered by excess repetition, but there is a nice, subdued twist ending. Most of the mystery involves what everybody wants, the “MacGuffin” (Hitchcock) or “dingus” (Sam Spade).