Fourteen new tennis-themed short stories by good authors writing their worst.
The only players who show a modicum of style and originality are ex-cop Robert Leuci, whose “A Killer Overhead” sets a hit man loose on an abusive spouse and then on the displeased tennis dad who gets more than he bargained for, and Jeremiah Healy, whose “A Debt to the Devil” takes a p.i. to a tennis community to solve a wrongly labeled felony-murder. More predictably, and flatly, umpires take revenge on an aging tennis brat (Mike Lupica), a McEnroe clone shows his temper off-court (Lawrence Block), voodoo decimates the school tennis team (Judith Kelman), the country club set is set back by an inner-city kid (Stephen Hunter), the ballboys compete (Peter Lovesey), a duffer takes a swing (David Morrell), the mob and the FBI surround the court (Ridley Pearson), the D.A. gets a tennis lesson (Lisa Scottoline), a phenom gets whacked (James W. Hall), a couple serves badly (Daniel Stashower) and a baby disrupts play (John Harvey). Kinky Friedman barely acknowledges the anthology’s theme in “Tennis, Anyone?” but by this time readers will have had their fill of smashes, lobs, lines calls and the drama of watching grass grow at Wimbledon.
Editor Penzler must have thought tennis mysteries would be as profitable as anthologies headlining cats or Christmas, but the only way this works is as a soporific.