A fine idea for a magazine article, a pretty thin one for a book: Pronzini's favorite bad mystery-and-crime novels--with plot-summaries, big chunks of quotable dreadfulness, and lots of good-natured critical assaults. In the Amateur Detective genre, Pronzini attacks Gaston Leroux's famous Mystery of the Yellow Room (""stilted writing, nonexistent characterization"") as well as such lesser-known writers as Will Levinrew from the '30s (fanciful murder methods) and Milton M. Raison from the '40s (precious dialogue). His most outstanding/awful private eyes include Carroll John Daly's Race Williams (""forever taking the reader into his confidence""), Mike Hammer, Honey West, and the spoof-sleuth in Ross H. Spencer's The Dada Caper. And there are also selected horrors from the police-procedural genre; the British-traditional shelf (""To say the pace is leisurely would be to commit premeditated understatement""); the espionage library (""William Le Queux may have been a master of padding, but Frank Diamond was no slouch""); rogue-criminal fiction a la Raffles; romantic suspense; gothics; paperback originals; and short stories. Along the way there's some bona fide publishing history (a charming chapter on the Phoenix Press), plus a few insights into the overall development of mystery/suspense genres. But, for the most part, this is just Pronzini taking you through his highly arbitrary, amusingly subjective list of funny-rotten mysteries--and only true-blue buffs will want to do more than browse a bit.