It’s a rare crime story that doesn—t include irreconcilable differences of one sort or another, so the concept behind Matera’s collection of 20 new pieces won—t exactly set your heart to pounding. And a fair number of the starry entrants circling warily or genially around unhappy marriages (Bill Pronzini, Jan Burke, Julie Smith, Judith Kelman, Gillian Roberts, Margaret Maron) and other ill-fated unions (Amanda Cross, John Lutz, Marcia Muller, Pete Hautman, Eileen Dreyer) do little more than set up their victims before mowing them down. But if the editor’s broad rubric doesn—t inspire stories that go in any particular direction, it doesn—t rule anything out either, and the prizes here are the stories that find new alternatives to the whodunit and spouse-kills- spouse formulas—Laurie R. King’s sadly reminiscent ice-cream man, Sarah Lovett’s off-kilter showdown between a psychiatrist and a new-minted widow, Jeremiah Healy’s tale of an estranged husband whose ex-wife is afraid to press him for money, Joan Hess’s amiably underhanded deal to punish a successful murderer, editor Matera’s all-too-close brother and sister—or that ignore the customary implications of the phrase entirely and strike out on their own. Jeffery Deaver follows a twisting trail of small-town corruption; Edna Buchanan puts an unlikely hero through a night of pure Miami hell; Sarah Shankman’s heroine is dangerously maddened by a noisy neighbor; and, most powerfully of all, Joyce Carol Oates follows an aspiring teenaged predator through his school day as his anger twists inside him like a snake. The best stories here set you watching and wondering as their time-bomb killers tick down to zero. Now that’s irreconcilable.