Seventeen new stories parade the fair sex at its foulest.
With a few notable exceptions, most of the A-list contributors are so intent on showing off their bad girls’ nastiness that they don’t do anything else. Nelson DeMille’s Vietnamese sniper picks off nine members of a recon patrol before letting the tenth go free. Laura Lippman’s airport pickup isn’t (surprise!) the mouse she seems. Ed McBain’s hapless schlep meets a pair of women who like to play murderous games. Tensions smolder among three sisters in Anne Perry’s post-WWI beachfront idyll. J.A. Jance’s unhappy bride schemes against her cheating husband. Elmore Leonard’s small-town girl rides her relationship with Pretty Boy Floyd to tabloid glory. Other contributors from Michael Connelly to Andrew Klavan to Joyce Carol Oates are equally content to strike a haunting note instead of composing a tune. The welcome exceptions don’t just embody editor Penzler’s title but play with it. Thomas H. Cook’s and S.J. Rozan’s heroines both want a man to help them do the most horrible thing imaginable. Ian Rankin shows a censor flimflammed by a prisoner’s cheating wife. Jeffery Deaver works overtime mapping the trajectory of a lonely mother’s bad-seed daughter.
Best of all is the densely plotted tale of a clever New York shamus’s comeuppance by Walter Mosley, who evidently never heard that his contribution was supposed to be at once full-blooded in its passions and anemic in its development.