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 is the scene where Kay meets Jimmy Lillyjohn for the first time. It reminds me of why Kay fell in love with him, and why - in my own quiet writer-way, I fell a little bit in love with him, too.
Dabbling in Crime
I was twenty-four years old.
Jimmy Lillyjohn had the bluest of blue eyes. They were turquoise pools back-lighted with a lazy sort of joy.
As soon as I saw him looking at me, I knew that I had jolted him. Probably in a way he had never been jolted before. Jimmy was not the first man I had affected in that way. Since I’d been in New York City, several had thought that they were in love with me. Some swore on the solvency of their hedge funds or the lives of their firstborn child that I was this…I was that…I was whatever men swear when they don’t have to be held accountable for the elaborate insincerity of their promises.
Jimmy wasn’t like that.
Until the day that he died, Jimmy’s eyes could joke. They could tease. They could laugh. They could cry. But they could never, never lie.
He looked at me once. That’s all it took. Our eyes met and destiny took over. At least it did if you believe in destiny, which I don’t. Except when I think of Jimmy. Then I do.