The Dame Was Trouble – Sarah L. Johnson et al. [Ed.] (2018)

The last time I attended a science fiction convention (remember those non-social distancing events?) I visited my favorite travelling bookstore to pick up a few books but this time I had a hankering for something different. I’ve been watching a lot of classic Film Noir recently read and was in the mood for more of those gumshoe goodies. As luck would have it among the piles of books stood out a seductive fedora capped doll and the title The Dame Was Trouble. Trouble notably being in bloody red and the description that this was a collection from the best female crime writers of Canada was enough to seal the deal for me to pick this one up.

I was somewhat surprised with some of the entries in this collection as a number of the stories are not, or only tangentially so, crime stories. What these stories do have in common are what I would call ‘strong women’ in various situations and settings. There were a few that were more aligned to my expectations – especially given the cover design – but as a whole I enjoyed all but one or two.

I must say that having read Rocket Ryder & Little Putt-Putt Go Down Swinging and Tall Tales of the Weird West I’ve become accustomed to and enjoy the fringe elements in the selections from Coffin Hop Press and this one is no exception.

I’ll dispense with lengthy descriptions but instead give one or two-liner, brief synopsis of the contents.


Indispensable (Kelley Armstrong)

This was a great start with a story perfectly meeting my expectations featuring a young woman working for a detective but “Indispensably” doing all the sleuthing. A case of investigating a suspected cheating wife with a nice twist and a prologue to give some extra context.


Playing Dead (Elle Wild)

An elderly Japanese woman who is clearly losing her faculties and her robot dog get a visit by some strangers. This was a strange selection for this series and not really a fit in a sense Would have been suited for a science fiction anthology but regardless, not my cup of tea.


A Cure For The Common Girl (Hermine Robinson)

Under the thumb of a no-good, two timing, deadbeat boyfriend and living off the last crumbs of his grandmother’s inheritance, a woman finally comes to her senses and some good fortune after chatting with a nosey neighbor.


A Premium on Murder (Pat Flewwelling)

Another surprising science fiction entry featuring a dystopian Big Brother future set in a world has devolved into a bleak society of racist, segregationist, neighbor snitchers experiencing climate abnormalities. The plot centres on an acromyalgic female retro gumshoe out to stop nothing less than a global war. Heady stuff.


Hook, Line and Sinker (Melodie Campbell)

Great short story about a girl hooking up with a guy one night. I thought I’d figured out where it was going based on the title of the collection but it had a very different, even more shocking end than I expected.


Parting Shot (S. G. Wong)

A ghostly love story set amidst a 1930s Chinese family movie studio. At first I thought it to be another odd selection for this anthology. Indicative of some strict asian societies, there are ‘rules’ to how the ghosts can operate. Once I figured that, the Who was easy. The Why remained a mystery until the end.


Eldorado (Gail Bowen)

A brief three pager about a newly arrived evident Casanova at an old folks home.


Daphne Disappeared (Darusha Wehm)

A Private Investigator isI hired to take care of paying a rich lady’s blackmailer but when the drop off goes horribly wrong she learns that the case is not what it seemed at the outset.  A bit of a rushed ending but otherwise a fine mystery.


Rozotica (R.M Greenaway)

Definitely the weirdest tale in the lot. A hairbrained scheme wherein a waitress is dragged into a con to play the part of futuristic sex robot. But the blend of 50’s gangsters supposedly in 1973 just doesn’t jive as do any of the characters. The robot shtick didn’t work and neither did this story. Who the hell ever said “tickety-boo” in the seventies?


Mona’s Last Day (Natalie Vacha)

A retiring cop on his last day has one last conversation with the prime suspect of the singular unsolved case tarnishing her otherwise stellar record. I can’t say that the ending was as good as the buildup. A let down and cop out for the cop on the way out.


Dinner With Francisco (Susan MacGregor)

A strange fantasy of a young girl who lived through the bombing of Guernica in 1937 and grows up to be a matadora vowing to avenge her village. Her target? Generalissimo Fransisco Franco himself. The one thing that bugged me was a character named “Gabirel’ and not Gabriel. A repeated consistent typo? (A bonus mystery?)


A Dish to Die For (Alice Bienia)

A  down on her luck diner hostess gets an unwanted late night guest right after closing hours. A bit disjointed but not so bad as to derail a fine setup and surprise twists and turns.


Silk (Meghan Victoria)

All told from her POV, a prostitute goes to visit her regular John only this time not for the money.  A very methodical mystery.


The Seeker (M. H. Callway)

Like Die Hard but instead of John McClane trying to save his wife in the confines of a building we have a kick ass middle aged mother on a lonely stretch of highway out on a job but really in search of her lost son. Like the film you’ll have to forgive some of the more implausible points along with some terrible Quebec joual (It’s Tabarnak! Not “Tabernacle”. Had to laugh at that one.) But lots of Yippee Ki Yay action which was a nice change.


Crossing Jordan (Sandra Ruttan)

A cancer stricken suicidal woman prostitute seems to have finally thrown in the towel and essentially taunts death from beginning to end until someone changes her mind. A touching story about gender identity rejection.


Painted Jade (Jayne Barnard)

A genuine whodunnit and yet another science fiction story in the lot. Unfortunately way too many hints had me solve it just about midway.

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