This ponderous collection of eight stories culled from other venues (1986–98) demonstrates that even a Grand Master of the genre can have her off days. Three of the inclusions throb with Catholic angst. In “The Scream,” a young man wrestles with the consequences of almost hitting a woman with his car and abandoning her to a later fate; in “Now and Forever,” a priest and a fervid parishioner violate moral vows, consummate an affair, and must deal with an all-too-watchful young troublemaker; and “Justina,” one of two cases featuring Davis’s series sleuth Julie Hayes, pits the amateur snoop against a cagey nun who turns out to be from a nonexistent religious order. Luckily for Hayes, she’s allowed an encore in the collection’s best-realized story, “The Puppet,” in which she rescues a child from porn merchants. “To Forget Mary Ellen” and “Till Death Do Us Part” follow twists and turns right out of Sleuth in tracing marital discord to predictably murderous results. And in “Miles To Go,” a criminally insane father-in-law hitches a ride with an unsuspecting relative—at least for a short while.
Even for fans, there’s not much here but stodgy writing, coupled with a tendency toward abrupt endings and characters as dull as an overused razor blade.