This latest anvil-weight anthology of 36 stories, all but 5 from the last half-century, is both perfectly fine and deeply flawed. The stories themselves are largely top-drawer, with chestnuts like Ross Macdonald’s “Guilt-Edged Blonde,” Stephen King’s “Quitters, Inc.,” Margaret Millar’s “The People Across the Canyon,” and Tony Hillerman’s “Chee’s Witch” alternating with discoveries from Anthony Boucher (a sensible young woman marries on obvious wife-killer), John D. MacDonald (a tired sheriff faces down a lynch mob), and Georges Simenon (a rare locked-room puzzle), and the occasional brand-name clunker like Ellery Queen’s “The Dauphin’s Doll,” Mickey Spillane’s “The Girl Behind the Hedge,” and Rex Stout’s “Fourth of July Picnic.” Apart from the surprising omission of Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, the real problem here is tipped off by the title. You’d think that Deaver, a moderately successful mystery novelist who became a phenomenally successful suspense novelist (The Blue Nowhere, p. 276, etc.), would know the difference between mystery and suspense, but there’s no evidence here that he does. His brief introduction never touches on the distinctive nature of suspense, and many of the best stories here—Robert Barnard’s “The Gentleman in the Lake,” Sara Paretsky’s “Heartbreak House,” Lisa Scottoline’s “Carrying Concealed”—though models of their kind, are a long way from the suspense genre. Lawrence Block, Fredric Brown, James M. Cain, Stanley Ellin, Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, Michael Malone, Ed McBain, Marcia Muller, Ruth Rendell, and Donald E. Westlake may help salve your disappointment.
A fair enough ragbag, if you don’t take that title too seriously.