From the writing team of the O’Shaughnessy sisters (Unlucky in Law, 2004, etc.), a collection of stories more gloomy than sinister.
Did you know that everyday life can be a drag? Here are 19 demonstrations of that fascinating truth. Spouses in particular are raked over the coals. Wives get after philandering husbands, husbands dispense with suffocating wives. In “To Still the Beating of Her Heart,” the happy couple race each other to see who can reach homicide first. Luckily, the collection has its share of more accomplished work. “Juggernaut” features series heroine Nina Reilly in a deftly plotted tale of a musician whose insurance scam turns discordant. The longer “Dead Money” is a pitch-perfect character study of an embittered law officer’s bout with temptation. “His Master’s Hand” is in the grand tradition of campfire horror stories, as chilling as it is slick. Balancing these, however, are several that are obvious, pointless or head-scratchingly ambiguous. Wit, and the change of pace that refreshes, are in short supply. A couple more in the sunny vein of “Gertrude Stein Solves a Mystery” would have helped. Here, the authors riff charmingly on unlikely sleuths Stein and Alice B. Toklas in a style they refer to as “Steinese.”
Uninspired, with a kind of dreary familiarity.