Five of this year’s crop are first-rate, one is truly superb—and the rest? Well, never mind those.
In the mordantly witty “Jury Duty,” the best story in Gorman and Greenberg’s annual collection, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s protagonist is a murderer who is also a juror in someone else’s murder trial. The prosecutor is smart and ambitious, the murderer/juror is smart and cranky, and the duel between them is a gem. In “Highest, Best Use,” J.A. Jance serves up an American Miss Marple, cantankerous, feisty and likable. F. Paul Wilson’s “Interlude at Duane’s” concerns a hit man transformed into a hero in a slam-bang actioner with not a word wasted. Vengeance über alles is the theme of David Morrell’s twisty “The Abelard Sanction,” in which spies hunt spies in the ultimate safe house. Hard guys get squished in Wendy Hornsby’s delicious biter-bit yarn, and in Jeremiah Healy’s deft “A Matter of Honor” it turns out that the Icelandic spin on the concept is outlandishly lethal. As for the rest, including the title story, by Sharan Newman, none are clunkers, but all are basically forgettable.
Still, six out of 21 isn’t bad.