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Eight short stories, each tale set in a different Manhattan neighborhood, by a so-so group of N.Y.C. writer/chums. The best known contributor is Mary Higgins Clark, who does indeed offer the most sleekly professional item: ""Lucky Day,"" in which a young Upper East Side housewife has mounting suspicions about her ne'er-do-well, Yuppie-manquÉ husband--who just might have murdered an elderly family-friend for a winning lottery ticket. Less distinctive, but competent, is Thomas Chastain's police-procedural about the trapping of a tricky killer (who eventually delivers one of those overly convenient confession/explanations). And Warren Murphy provides a serviceable gangland tidbit: the wily (but overconfident) maneuvers of a hired hit man who has himself been marked for assassination. The other entries are less sturdy, however, with three of them mired in unconvincing psychopathology: Joyce Harrington (sometimes a riveting psychosuspenser) leans heavily on an unpersuasive, Svengali-like folie à deux (involving bird obsessions); Dorothy Salisbury Davis verges on droopy soap-opera in a tale of a crumbling marriage, the wife (a literary agent) driven to murder her husband (ditto), who seems to have drifted into a homosexual affair; Lucy Freeman presents a psychiatrist-sleuth who uses dream analysis to solve an otherwise humdrum, overlong murder mystery. Whitley Strieber's ""Vaudeville,"" though atmospheric, is a disappointment--starting out with creepy charm (the 1940's murders of old-time vaudevillians), winding up with far-fetched formula (blackmail, corruption). And Bernard St. James' ""The Valence Orange Murder"" is a frail, clumsy Ellery Queen imitation. Mixed Manhattan bag, then, with about the same quality range as an average Queen or Hitchcock anthology.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1986
Publisher: Morrow