Sunday, January 29, 2012

Two of the Deadliest, edited by Elizabeth George

Award-winning mystery writer Elizabeth George tasked an impressive roster of female authors--Nancy Pickard, Linda Barnes, Laura Lippmann, Marcia Muller, Carolyn Hart, and Wendy Hornsby, among others--with writing short stories about people motivated by lust and/or greed to nefarious deeds.

The first three two stories are effectively creepy. In "Dark Chocolate," by Nancy Pickard, a woman frosts and eats an entire cake as she waits for her husband to come home; as she eats her way through the cake, the reader becomes aware of the horror within her house. "The Offer," by Patricia Smiley, is the story of a young woman in LA for a job interview; she accepts a limo ride intended for another person with a similar name who is also in town interviewing for a job. She intends to head for her own hotel once they get downtown, but she allows herself to assume the other applicant's at the fancier hotel...with bizarre results. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about an electronic stalker in "E-Male." When the stalker discovers that the object of his intrusions is in danger, he must find a way to help her without revealing his own guilt. These are just three of the stories in the collection that really work--they build suspense (or horror), they develop interesting characters, and they do reveal the workings of greed and/or lust, all within just a few pages.

Of course, some stories are less effective. A few have rather silly romantic twists. Others are too obvious or simply not engaging. At the end of the book, George presents stories by five writers who "are either largely unknown or who have not been published before." Unfortunately, I didn't find any of these stories very effective. But they're short--and you can always skip ahead to the next story.

Favorite passage:
. . . Brad really harshed on my mellow. ("Can You Hear Me Now?" by Marcia Talley, who introduced me to this phrase I may just have to work into conversation.)

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