Plot or Premise
A collection of the best stories from 1996.
What I Liked
Only seven stories are particularly memorable:
- Robert J. Randisi: The Girl Who Talked To Horses — A Dick-Francis-type story involving murder in the stables with the horse framed for the murder. Great whodunnit, with a trap for the murderer, and all the explanations at the end. Cross between Francis and Christie.
- S.J. Rozan: Hoops — Smith shows up investigating the death of a basketball player, the victim of an apparent murder-suicide after killing his pregnant girlfriend. His buddy doesn’t believe it and hires Smith to find out the real story. Suspects include a jealous ex-boyfriend with a future in basketball, numerous gang friends, a coach who helps them all, and even the dead kid since he was HIV positive. Another great story from Rozan. (4.5/5.0)
- Monica Quill: Intent to Kill — A man plans the death of his wife but is surprised to find somebody beat him to it. Unfortunately, he is standing over the body when the cops arrive.
- Sarah Shankman: Real Life — Clare is a script-writer for a top soap opera but she has been modelling her characters after her own life, and she was recently dumped by a man and she’s rather wimpy about it. During a stint as a prospective juror, she gets help from two other jurors to spice up the story and throw in a murder or two to get revenge through the TV on the ex-bf. A small twist at the end makes a nice ending.
- Sara Paretsky: Publicity Stunts — A woman shock writer tries to hire Warshawski as a bodyguard but gets turned down. To get some publicity, the author gets a shock jock to attack V.I. on the air for her politics but when the woman gets killed, V.I. becomes suspect number one. Guess who has to find out who else had a motive to kill her?
- Bill Pronzini: The Monster — A woman at home gets a bad vibe from a plumber and tries to keep him away from their children. Twist ending after a very short story.
- Ruth Rendall: Clothes — An obsessive-compulsive shopper whose addiction is clothes. No real mystery to solve, nor crime until the end, but its obvious the story was written backwards from the crime at the end to explain the reasons leading up to it. Nicely done, with great character development.
Other so-so stories by Brendan Dubois (The Dark Snow — ex-CIA in retirement home); Lia Matera (Dead Drunk — someone’s killing the homeless); Ed McBain (Running from Legs — war hero and prohibition); Walter Satterthwait (Cassoulet — master chef and the girl who got away); John Lutz and David August (Toad Crossing — building a culvert for frogs); Maude Miller (The Last Word — three sisters, one not wanted); David Corn (My Murder — an author claims to have committed the perfect murder); James Grady (Kiss the Sky — inmate trying to stop a hit); Brett Simon (A Good Thing — a con of a wealthy Brit); Nancy Pickard (A Rock and a Hard Place — PI helping rape victim); and Donald Westlake (The Burglar and the Whatsit — burglar Santa helps drunk inventor).
What I Didn’t Like
Out of the 38 stories in the collection, there are three that are merely readable by Edward Hoch (The Narrow House — inexperienced woman starts grow-up in her house); Alan Russell (Married to a Murderer — socialite and a death-row inmate); and Reginald Hill (The Perfect Murder Club — people respond to ad in the newspaper about perfect murders). However, there are four more that are wastes of paper by Sam Pizzo (Wild Horses — Walter Mitty on the internet); Susan B. Kelly (Stalking Horse — undercover woman cop as a hitter); Anne Perry (The Escape — freedom fighters break out a criminal during French revolution); and Marcia Muller (The Cracks in the Sidewalk — novelist and an intriguing homeless woman).
The Bottom Line
Good collection of stories