Most authors who’d just published a 754-page Collected Mystery Stories two years ago would still be catching their breath. Not Block, who here collects 83 crime tales in a package as bulky as a pair of bricks. In addition to all the stories in his 2000 retrospective—everything from the collections Sometimes They Bite (1983), Like a Lamb to the Slaughter (1984), and Some Days You Get the Bear (1993), and a brace of stories featuring ebullient burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, alcoholic sometime lawyer Matthew Scudder, courtroom-averse lawyer Martin Ehrengraf, Archie Goodwin wannabe Chip Harrison, and hit man John Keller—Block adds a dozen previously uncollected items: not quite as many as his Introduction would suggest, but still a substantial bunch. The newcomers include two Keller stories (one excerpted from the novel Hit List, 2000), two cases from Scudder’s distant past, a typically lightweight Ehrengraf entry, half a dozen new stories—none of them remarkable, but all with the professional snap of Block’s best work—and the author’s very first story, showing that if in 1957 he hadn’t mastered the ironic reversals that would become a hallmark of his short fiction, he was already well on his way to mastering the laconic, offhand voice that would make the dozen standouts here, from “Keller’s Therapy” to “In for a Penny,” so witty and so dark.
Do all the folks who bought the Collected Mystery Stories need to refresh their libraries with this update? Probably not. But true-blue mystery fans would be crazy to pass it up—except for those determined to hold out for a future collection that tops a thousand pages.