Thirteen female authors pool their talents in this round-robin tale of murder at an exclusive gated community on the Chesapeake Bay.
Gryphon Gate’s designed to be perfect, so it’s no wonder that it features the perfect mayor (developer Henry Drysdale), the perfect bitch (his scheming ex-wife Vanessa Smart-Drysdale, plotting her own neighboring development), the perfect adulterer (Rev. Dr. Peter Armbruster), and the perfect victim (sociologist/snoop Dr. Sigmund Vormeister). Launched by Gayle Lynds, these figures and their upstairs/downstairs neighbors and menials variously bob, drift, and drown in subsequent chapters most notable for their high body count and nonstop stream of revelations about absolutely everyone, darling. Each contributor plants the seeds of skullduggery and suspicion so generously and harvests the earlier crop so conscientiously that the story miraculously avoids the besetting sin of such productions: contradiction and incoherence. On the downside, the endless cocktail-party chatter prevents any dominant character from emerging—there’s not much rooting interest even in scheming Vanessa or the chief investigator, Captain Diane Robards—and except for a whiff of Kathy Reichs’s trademark forensics, Julie Smith’s bright humor, and Anne Perry’s psychological ruminations, there’s not much individuality as you move from chapter to chapter either.
Top honors go to Lynds for her effortless kickoff. The co-conspirators are rounded out by Rita Mae Brown, Lisa Gardner, Linda Fairstein, Kay Hooper, Heather Graham, Jennifer Crusie, Tina Wainscott, Katherine Neville, and editor Talley.