A collection of 14 original stories, more than half of them fading in the stretch.
The frontrunners are H.R.F. Keating’s charming seven little old ladies, who take time out from gossiping on the village green to foil a pair of Teddy Boys; Max Allan Collins’s day at the track for series sleuth Nate Heller, who ends up solving a domestic homicide; Scott Wolven’s inventive combination of habitual bad guys, a private racetrack and the Yakuza; Pat Jordan’s old man trying for one more score; Michael Malone’s sentimental treatment of a girl and the horse who loves her; and Lawrence Block’s hit man Keller earning the money for stamps by watching at the rail. Running just out of the money are Ken Bruen’s tough-talking crooked cops, Joyce Carol Oates’s carefully modulated hard-luck story and Julie Smith’s veterinarian’s revenge. Closer to the glue factory are Lorenzo Carcaterra’s horse trainer/degenerate gambler’s first-person wail; Michele Martinez’s tough-talking glimpse of a lawyer out-hustling drug dealers but snookered by a waitress; John Lescroart’s reopening of an old murder scam; Thomas Cook’s day at the hospital; and, limping in last place, Jan Burke’s interminable family saga.
Only yacht owners give their prizes worse names than horse owners. Penzler, who’s making a second career of coaxing good writers to do mediocre work (Murder at the Foul Line, 2005, etc.), offers his usual tepid introduction.