CHARLAINE HARRIS “Small Chances.” Short story. Anne DeWitt #3. First published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2016. Collected in Small Kingdoms and Other Stories (Subterranean, hardcover, May 2019); and JABberwocky Literary Agency, paperback, 2019).

   Chatelaine Harris is best known now as the author of the Sookie Stackhouse series upon which the HBO television series True Blood is based. Sookie is a telepathic waitress who works in a Northern Louisiana bar and solves mysteries involving werewolves, vampires and the like.

   I’ve never read the book or watched the TV series, but my sense is tht the stories are a lot darker in tone than the two series Harris began her career with: (1) the Aurora Teagarden series, featuring a librarian who likes solves crimes as well, and (2) the Lily Bard books, about a cleaning lady detective based in rural Arkansas. (Correction: See comment #1.)

   The success of the Sookie Stackhouse books has made it possible for Harris to write anything she wants and have her many fans clamoring for more, so she has and they do. Included among these other efforts are four stories about a high school principal now named Anne DeWitt. Due to a fatal incident at a training course she was taking, the people in charge have forced her out of the program, changed her name, and started her off in a new career.

   In which to get ahead, one or two convenient deaths have already occurred. Always in the interest in the children in her school, mind you, but neither does anyone want to get in her way as she moves her way up in her new profession.

   “Small Chances” begins with a man stopping at her office and announcing himself as her first husband. Anne knows something is wrong immediately She’s never been married. So who is Tom Wilson and what does he want? Or perhaps the question is, who sent him?

   This is dark comedy at its finest. This is the only one of the four stories I’ve read, and I don’t know if there’s much potential for a fifth one, or even a novel, but in this one small dose so far, I found this short tale divertingly wicked and a lot of fun to read.

        The Anne DeWitt series —

“Small Kingdoms.” EQMM, Nov 2013
“Sarah Smiles.” EQMM, Sep/Oct 2014
“Small Chances.” EQMM, Sept/Oct 2016
“Small Signs.” EQMM, Nov/Dec 2017