cover image Malice Domestic 3: Malice Domestic 3

Malice Domestic 3: Malice Domestic 3

Nancy Pickard, Rosalind Greenberg. Pocket Books, $4.99 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-671-73828-0

There is a surprising, and refreshing, variety to the 13 stories in this third in a series of mystery short story collections (previous volumes were edited by Elizabeth Peters and Mary Higgins Clark). Some situations here are well beyond Miss Marple's ken: take Susan and Bill Albert's story, in which townspeople, many with car phones, witness a crime and solve it together on a call-in talk-radio show. In Nancy Pickard's offering, crooks rely on a university's sign language-using gorilla as a witness and alibi. The stories by Taylor McCafferty and Deborah Adams each end with an appropriately ironic twist. Dorothy Cannell contributes a hilarious, if overdone, send-up of Jane Austen, the Brontes and lesser period romance writers. Sharyn McCrumb's epistolary ``Gentle Reader'' is well-written except for the too-cute inclusion of her and other current mystery writers' names on a panel with her fictional author. Some of the stories leave interesting characters undeveloped, and two (Wendy Hornsby's ``High Heels in the Headliner'' and Camilla T. Crespi's ``The Trouble with the Shoot'') seem to stretch the definition of what makes a ``cozy.'' Marilyn Wallace submits a brooding, suspenseful and ambiguous tale of trust and suspicion within a marriage, but in the end it's a letdown. However, Joan Hess's ``Make Yourselves at Home'' and Marlys Millhiser's grisly gothic, ``Cara's Turn,'' are unsubtle but satisfying mayhem, and this collection is--mostly--satisfying. (May)