Despite reams of statistical evidence, marriage doesn’t prolong men’s lives—or women’s either, according to 18 mostly new stories by members of the Mystery Writers of America.
“I’m about to give away the ending,” announces editor Coben (Promise Me, 2006, etc.) at the outset of his brief introduction. The sad truth: Despite a token handful of tales celebrating the power of love, most of these tales end badly for one or both spouses. Such a preordained outcome drastically limits the possibilities of surprise, and even the most successfully atmospheric of these stories—Ridley Pearson’s husband desperate for news of his missing wife, Lee Child’s naïf who protects a rich wife from her abusive husband, Charles Ardai’s WWII federal agent intent on consoling the woman he’s accidentally widowed, Tom Savage’s cyberdate from hell, Charles Todd’s WWI wife waiting for news from the front, Jeff Abbott’s estranged son dutifully helping his sick father end his life, Laura Lippman’s call girl outed in her suburban private life by a blackmailing client, Jay Brandon’s little-man suitor who’s overwhelmed by marriage—depend more on ritual than novelty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as supporters of marriage will attest. Others filling the unsurprising ranks include Brendan DuBois, William Kent Krueger, Jim Fusilli and R.L. Stine.
The one spectacular shocker: Coben’s own contribution, the one reprint here, in which a distraught wife can’t convince anyone that the man calling herself her husband is an imposter.