Profiles of fiction’s leading sleuths originally published individually for patrons of editor Penzler’s (Black Noir, 2009, etc.) Mysterious Bookshop.
The most notable feature of the collection is the variety of approaches taken by the contributors. Michael Connelly is thematic and evocative in tracing Harry Bosch’s sources, Lee Child pragmatic and market-driven in explaining Jack Reacher’s. Ian Rankin roots John Rebus in his study of English literature; John Harvey roots Charlie Resnick in genre conventions; John Connolly reflects on the ways Charlie Parker combines the two. Stephen Hunter confesses his temptation to swipe the plot for Bob Lee Swagger’s debut; John Lescroart recalls his early struggles to make it as a writer; Colin Dexter answers FAQ about Inspector Morse on the page and television. David Morrell takes a sober Canadian view of Rambo’s origins in the Vietnam War–era counterculture; Alexander McCall Smith pens a love letter to Precious Ramotswe’s Botswana. Faye Kellerman considers the biographical links between herself and Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker, while Jonathan Kellerman embroiders on the observation, “People talk to me; I listen.” Ken Bruen and Carol O’Connell produce stylistic pastiches of their novels, and Robert Crais maintains that Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are always with him. Robert B. Parker, Anne Perry, Jeffery Deaver, Laura Lippman and Ridley Pearson all fictionalize their profiles in distinctive, utterly characteristic ways. Most entertaining is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s dialogue on Aloysius X.L. Pendergast, whose relaxed back-and-forth brings not only the hero but the collaborative process of writing to life.
An all-star cast produces a mostly rewarding collection.