The 20 new stories in this year’s Mystery Writers of America’s annual anthology focus on financial vicissitudes.
Editor DeMille, a perennial resident on the bestseller lists, is less deft at finding surefire short-story winners, with only two standouts. One of them, seasoned pro Lee Child, turns the tables on a coke dealer with a defective Bic. The other, newcomer K. Catalona, drolly presents a literary agent and his spunky geriatric helper who co-opt a client’s manuscript. As for the rest: Angela Zeman takes a society journalist to task; Elaine Togneri establishes a photojournalist in his career; Ted Bell nails a tabloid reporter for stealing; and S.J. Rozan goes one better and offs a tabloid blackmailer between poker hands. A Ponzi scheme fails to enliven a surprisingly dull appearance by Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. Tim Chapman makes a mom resort to murder. Twist Phelan shows how a father and grandfather’s get-rich dreams go awry. DeMille plots insurance fraud in the Hamptons; Carolyn Mullen plots murder for revenge in a mill town. Daniel Hale places diamonds in a Texas cabin; David Morrell sets up a fake murder attempt at Lincoln Center; Joseph Goodrich assuages poverty and loneliness in a Paris cemetery; Roberta Islieb puckishly demeans the tourist potential of Key West. Peter Blauner topples a faded Hollywood star; David DeLee’s on-the-skids rap star gains street cred. Frank Cook’s scientific breakthrough leads to dementia, and Jonathan Santlofer’s deals with the Old Masters.
Not helped by DeMille’s lackluster introduction or the generally pedestrian handling of the volume’s uninspiring theme.