SMALL FELONIES: Fifty Mystery Short Shorts by Bill Pronzini

SMALL FELONIES: Fifty Mystery Short Shorts

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Pronzini's introduction presents this as ""the first single-author collection of exclusively short-short--none is longer than two thousand words--and exclusively criminous stories."" Most of the 50 mini-tales gathered here originally appeared in mystery magazines over the past 20 years; eight are published for the first time. And, though there are a few quirky entries and some efforts at varying tones and settings, there's a numbing sameness about the predictable twists, familiar ironies, and two-dimensional motives that recur again and again. The favorite themes are revenge and blackmail, played either for pulp-melodrama or darkish comedy--but never with the genuine wit of such crime-writers as Jack Ritchie, Donald E. Westlake, or Simon Brett. There are a few serviceable stabs at mordant horror à la Stanley Ellin, several unconvincing psychopaths and a handful of halfhearted dips (from silly to bland) into science-fiction and the supernatural. Old formulas--the cop who's really the criminal, the apparent villain who's really a good (or not-so-bad) guy--are competently recycled. The milder entries feature con-artists and bumbling crooks. And the ""Nameless Detective"" appears in three of the stories: both of the better ones involve a Pronzini specialty--the locked-room puzzle--although ""Cache and Carry"" (co-authored by Marcia Muller and costarring Sharon McCone) is marred by awkward storytelling that requires the ""Nameless"" (his only real distinction) to be given a nickname. Okay diversion in small, occasional doses (e.g., on commuter buses and trains), but not for anyone with even a modestly developed attention span.

Pub Date: Dec. 19th, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's