Twenty-one all-new stories, mostly a somber, let's-take-ourselves-too-seriously collection featuring female protagonists from such women writers as old-timers Dorothy B. Hughes and Dorothy Salisbury Davis; England's Antonia Fraser; academe's Amanda Cross; a California pileup including Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Faye Kellerman, Julie Smith, Susan Dunlap, Mary Wings, Marilyn Wallace, and Shelley Singer, the unique Maria Antonia Oliver, and Paretsky herself, whose sluggishly belabored case for V.I. Warshawski and introduction here ("there is no one way to view women") hardly represent her best work. The one standout: Liza Cody's "Lucky Dip," about a tough pair of sisters on the street. Series characters Kinsey Millhone (in Grafton's moderately successful what-goes-around-comes-around story), Sharon McCone (in Muller's foray into gang rivalry) and Kiernan O'Shaughnessy (in Dunlap's all-too-predictable break-a-leg story) will win no new fans here, though Kate Fansler and her nephew (in Cross's droll, class act) just might. Overall, though, disappointing.