cover image Murder and Obsession

Murder and Obsession

. Delacorte Press, $22.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31800-6

Like his Murder for Love and Murder for Revenge, Penzler's latest collection features original stories (14, plus one reprint) by an all-star team. Most of the writers score solid hits but, unexpectedly, not Elmore Leonard. In ""Sparks,"" Dutch seems to be going through the motions as a good-looking widow and an insurance claims investigator talk over the recent destruction of her overly insured house; Leonard even resorts to characterization through celebrity-branding: ""Linda Fiorentino. That was who Robin looked like... Robin had the same effortless way about her.... "" Ed McBain does better in his cute tale (""Barking at Butterflies"") of a man whose plans to dispose of the dog he hates and to keep the woman he loves badly misfire. James W. Hall provides surprise in ""Crack,"" when a Fulbright scholar peeping on his nubile neighbor sees more than he expected. In ""The Vampire,"" Joyce Carol Oates waxes gothic, freezing a murder in progress to backtrack through a dying artist's last years with his manipulative mistress. And in the collection's only reprint, ""The Mexican Pig Banquet,"" James Crumley has C.W. Sughrue laying low until a gang of thieves and their accomplice tap his usual weakness: a damsel in distress. Top marks go to Dennis Lehane; his ""Running Out of Dog"" manages a novel's worth of fine tension and nuanced characters as two childhood friends deal with loving the same woman in a small town after Vietnam. Elizabeth George, Anne Perry and Eric Van Lustbader are among the others contributing to this enjoyable collection. (Mar.) FYI: Penzler is the proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and the Mysterious Bookshop West in Los Angeles.