Guest editor Child chooses 20 atmospheric tales whose settings and crimes are all over the map in this 14th entry in Penzler’s annual series.
Crime is everywhere. In teeming Campeche City on the Yucatán, a hit man catches up with a fugitive in Gary Alexander’s “Charlie and the Pirates.” In Jon Land’s “Killing Time,” another hitter hides in plain sight at a Connecticut boarding school. R.A. Allen’s nomadic waiter, who could be named Robert, seeks sexual fulfillment on Florida’s panhandle in “The Emerald Coast”; a Boston priest is accused of sexual misconduct in John Dufresne’s “The Cross-Eyed Bear.” Lyndsay Faye’s Sherlock Holmes pastiche “The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness” takes Dr. Watson to the home of a San Franciscan fixated on the phantom Mexicans, while Gar Anthony Haywood’s “The First Rule Is” explores the relationship between Los Angeles’s haves and have-nots. Back on the East Coast, Dennis Lehane unfolds the tender story of a man, a dog and a murder in “Animal Rescue.” Moving from North Dakota to Jersey does little to improve a call girl’s luck in Allan Tucher’s “Bismarck Rules.” Russian-born Zhenya, whose father makes sexual exploitation a thriving business in Joseph Wallace’s “Custom Sets,” criss-crosses the country from Philadelphia to Fort Worth, seeking justice. Crime persists even beyond the grave, as the late Kurt Vonnegut’s “Ed Luby’s Key Club” proves.
Penzler’s foreword makes no bones about spurning traditional whodunits in favor of an eclectic mix of tales that exhibit crime in all its varieties in every corner of the world—and then some.