From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Mystery maven Penzler has gathered 17 stories from top writers for an all-original suspense anthology with results that are about the same as if a master chocolatier had assembled a new sampler box: everything of high quality but with enough variety to appeal to all tastes. All the contributors are true to their own very familiar voices. Ed McBain's "Improvisation," a chilling story of two young actresses who commit murder to learn what it feels like, is cut-to-the-bone sharp. In the haunting "Cielo Azul," Michael Connelly allows both detective Harry Bosch and profiler Terry McCaleb to brood, as only they can, about a murder victim never identified. In "Dear Penthouse Forum (A First Draft)," Laura Lippman uses an original format to showcase a truly frightening woman with a most unusual collecting mania who preys on men in airports. S.J. Rozan's "The Last Kiss" features a dangerous woman who's all the more dangerous because at first she seems so sympathetic. Jeffrey Deaver's "Born Bad" is a brilliant double play, with tight characterizations and an unforgettable plot twist. It's a joy to watch these talented authors, who also include J.A. Jance, Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley and Joyce Carol Oates, embrace the short story form and produce magic.
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Mystery guru Penzler (prolific editor, bookseller, and founder of Mysterious Press) has convinced 17 contemporary mystery writers to submit never-before-published short stories for this anthology. The lineup includes plenty of heavyweights: Ed McBain, Anne Perry, Elmore Leonard, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ian Rankin. Penzler's introduction showcases the entire squad and provides a witty look at dangerous women in mysteries past, such as Philip Marlowe's Brigid O'Shaughnessy and Conan Doyle's Irene Adler. The stories, just about all of which feature a woman gleefully luring a hapless male to destruction, often rely on abrupt power shifts, as in McBain's "Improvisation," which begins with a seductress in a bar saying, "Why don't we kill somebody?" Oates sustains suspense through a pathological love letter in "Give Me Your Heart," and Laura Lippman's "Dear Penthouse Forum (A First Draft)" delivers a twisted O'Henry ending. The cumulative effect is more than a little poisonous--best to take these small ampoules of crime one at a time. Connie FletcherCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved