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. Agent, Nat Sobel. (Jan. 5)
Forecast: Backed by blurbs from Janet Evanovich and Robert B. Parker, this all-star anthology will do better (and probably very well) with the crime and suspense crowd than with fans of traditional whodunits.
Release date: 01/01/2005