Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, edited by Lee Child

If you're getting ready to escape the heat,
here's a cool book full of intriguing short stories.

Edited by Lee Child, "Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance"
(Mulholland/Little,Brown, $25.99) is jam-packed with dark and violent
stories by 21 different authors.

The lineup includes a variety of well-known contributors who write
frequent bestsellers as well as newcomers on the edge of discovery.

In the brief introduction, award-winning Child (creator of the "Jack
Reacher" series) discusses how these particular stories were chosen.

The basic instructions were: "Write about vengeance, revenge, getting
even, maybe even doing a bad thing for a good reason. Or a bad

Pretty simple.  Although you had to be a member of the Mystery Writers
of America to participate, there was considerable leeway.  Child and
the selection committee faced challenges -- they could only accept a
limited number of additional short stories for the anthology.

There aren't any light and fluffy tales or whodunits; instead there
are many encounters with nasty characters. While most of the action is
set in the United States, foreign locales are deftly used.

The variety of authors is excellent -- a brief biographical section
offers insights into other talented efforts of the individual writers.

Michael Connelly offers "A Fine Mist of Blood", a Harry Bosch short
story, dealing with an unsolved case and a possible witness.  Of
course there's the unexpected ending, but Connelly is in fine form as
Bosch discovers deadly secrets.

"The Final Ballot" by Brendan DuBois focuses on Beth, a woman whose
daughter has been badly beaten by the son of a presidential candidate.
 She's out for vengeance and gets it in an unusual way, although a
slick troubleshooter tries to smooth things over.

"The Unremarkable Heart" by Karin Slaughter is a depressing tale about
a dying woman and dark revelations about why her daughter died.
Child's excellent short story deals with a killer in Hollywood and
intriguing slow revenge by a victim's son.

"Hot Sugar Blues" by Steve Liskow delves into the success of a blues
singer while examining past discretions.  Business ethics are the
focus of two stories, while three have religious aspects.

It's easy to make this collection of short stories last about three
weeks -- just limit yourself to one a day!

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed
crime novels  and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, June 24, 2012.

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