The concept must have seemed irresistible: Instead of using cats on vacation or Sherlock Holmes's Christmas to hang a collection of mysteries on, why not use something people are actually interested in reading about, like sweaty sex? And the 19 mostly-new contributions (Donald E. Westlake's "classic" fable of dream and delusion hails from 1978, Ed Gorman's tale of arson for love was published in Such a Good Girl two months ago) certainly do their best to raise the temperature. But except for sex-and-violence specialists like Vicki Hendricks, whose James M. Cain–flavored tale of marital bliss is more of her usual, the obligatory sex scenes soak up so much room that the plots are starved. The R- to NC17–rated entries by Thomas S. Roche, Michael Garrett, Robert J. Randisi, and co-editor Gelb pile on the flesh and blood but horde twists and surprises like a bunch of misers; Annette Meyers and Wendi Lee are more impressive in showing a new range of voices than in telling memorable stories; co-editor Collins confirms his Mickey Spillane credentials without putting them to much use; even usually reliable Lawrence Block seems muffled and hamstrung. The most successful stories are the frank mood pieces by Terrill Lankford and Loren D. Estleman, the conscientious capers by Dick Lochte and Edward D. Hoch, and Joe Gores's moody tale of revenge tinged, but not overwhelmed, with sex.
Memo to next volume's contributors: Lust makes a great appetizer between the covers, but a more satisfying entrée between the sheets.