When Shelly Reuben was investigating arson as a private detective, she came across individuals and events that tantalized her mind and touched her heart. Add to that an indelible belief that, even if virtue does not always triumph, it will eventually manage to hobble, stumble or stride across the finish line—and you have these stories. Originally published in The Forensic Examiner and The Evening Sun.
Among the fascinating characters within the pages of Dabbling in Crime, meet:
• Dante No-Last-Name-No-Middle-Initial, a throwaway kid hiding under a music school staircase, with a damaged heart and the talent of a virtuoso violinist.
• Wealthy, beloved Jimmy Lillyjohn, burned to death on the top floor of his mansion after a lighted cigarette falls from his fingers onto his lonely mattress.
• Mountainous, mean-spirited Hilda Pomfrey, who bullies everyone in her sphere, including her tree-loving, milquetoast husband Herb.
• Police Chief Joseph Steinbeck, who reluctantly participates in a library event, and is almost murdered when he is checked out as a “Human Book.”
• Prosecutor Edward Nygh, who hides evidence of arson to convict the wrong man.
• Nygh’s reluctant assistant who travels through time to revisit her past.
Shelly Reuben's first novel, Julian Solo, was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award and by the Libertarian Futurist Society for a Prometheus. Her crime novel, Origin and Cause, was nominated by the Maltese Falcon Society of Japan for a Falcon; and her adult fable, The Man with the Glass Heart, was a Freedom Book Club selection. Her fiction has been published by Scribner, Harper, Harcourt, and is also available through Blackstone Audio Books.
This story was inspired, not only by the years I spent investigating fires, but also by the many tales told to me by dedicated teachers (heroes one and all), frustrated by the bureaucracy of working in public schools.