Eight of these nine reprints are from the 1990s, and all nine of them, from “Scat” (a club singer’s standup colleague is murdered) to “Ho Ho Ho” (murder among the department-store Santas) to “Play Nice” (the killing of a priceless horse in a galaxy far, far away) to “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Corpse” (Geraldine Farrar solves a murder at the 1918 Metropolitan Opera House), are sparkling, lovingly detailed, and effortlessly inventive in setting up their situations. The problems come in the windups, all invariably muffled, premature, or humdrum. Even the strong title story, which reimagines a brilliantly simple motive for Jack the Ripper’s crimes based on the similarities of his victims, trails off into a predictable conclusion. But as a primer of strategies for kicking off a gratifyingly varied series of crime stories, this first collection by Paul (Full Frontal Murder, 1997, etc.) could hardly be improved.