An all-star lineup of 13 women mystery authors has produced one madcap, murderous tale in the same serial fashion as Naked Came the Manatee
(1996). To some extent, position determines each contributor's role, but each author has ample opportunity to display her unique talents. Nevada Barr, who leads off, deserves credit for introducing heroine Caroline Blessing; her surprising mother, Hilda Finch; and several more of the zany inhabitants of Phoenix Spa, snuggled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. J.D. Robb, in the number two spot, wastes no time shifting the plot into gear with the murder of the spa's flamboyant owner, Claudia de Vries. Those who follow (Nancy Pickard, Lisa Scottoline, Perri O'Shaughnessy, J.A. Jance, Faye Kellerman, Mary Jane Clark, Marcia Talley, Anne Perry, Diana Gabaldon and Val McDermid) each get a crack at muddying the waters or putting a new spin on an already dizzy character—or in some cases, adding a new victim to the growing pile. Lucky 13 Laurie King dazzles by weaving a prettily finished quilt from the motley patches created by her comrades. Readers will relish the resulting comic soap-opera murder mystery, taking especial pleasure in watching these pros deftly recast a scene, a clue or a character to keep the story rollicking along. (Aug. 13)
Forecast:Together these women command a huge fan base, and if enough of them are willing to promote, this collaborative effort could rack up strong sales.