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by Victoria, Margaret Heckman, Searles, ed
Deadly Alibi Press, July 2002
148 pages
ISBN: 1886199175

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is a collection of short stories written by members of the Central Coast Mystery Writers (California). It's always intriguing to open a book of short stories because you never know what you will find and what treasures will lure you into reading more. As with all collections, this has stories which I enjoyed and others which I thought had various problems. The most common problems were the naiveté of the story, the foolishness of the characters, and the awkward dialogue. Some stories immediately intrigued me and got my interest. Most, although not all, of the stories in this collection could best be called "traditional" and all but one of them made excellent use of the California setting to cause their stories to be more memorable.

"Back in the Saddle" by Victoria Heckman describes a trail ride on which an overheard conversation leads to murder. I thought it was a trifle convoluted but it stayed in my mind long after I finished the story. Carolyn Wheat in "The Black Hawthorne" is the exception to those who set their stories in California. Her story takes place in Georgetown and involves a valuable antique apparently broken by a neighbor's cats. "No Free Vacation" by Kathleen Keyes finds two people on a vacation to the coast discovering that something nefarious had happened in the beach house where they hoped to stay. In "Swan Song" by J. A. Lucas the police get the help of a swan in discovering who murdered a man found in the park.

Maxine O'Callaghan asks a traditional question in "Belling the Cat." Did the Butler nearly kill someone by stealing their asthma inhaler? Martha C . Lawrence's psychic investigator s the murderer of a woman in "A Little Light on the Subject." A wannabe mystery writer makes up stories about people in a cafe and discovers that one story might be true in "Building of Character" by K.M. Kavanagh. "Metaphor for Murder" by Sue McGinty takes place at a San Simeon look alike in the thirties where someone apparently murders Winston Churchill.

Kris Neri describes an obsessive triathlete in "Deadly Obsessions" who feels she must find the person who caused another athlete to be badly injured. Margaret Searles writes about Mrs. Millet and Mrs. Hark in "Cream Puffs." A young punk mistakenly decides to take advantage of a busload of mostly seniors on their way to the theater. "Lowball" is by Gary Phillips and is certainly not a traditional story. A woman wants Monk to find the killer of her husband and refuses to accept that it was just random violence in South Central L.A. Finally Susan M. Stephenson in "Lemon Drops" introduces us to a woman who fears she is being stalked by a dangerous killer.

The stories were enjoyable, some more than others, and the quality of writing varied as well. There is, however, something for everyone in this collection and I think you will savor it. I especially like short story collections for airplane trips because you don't have to try to get an entire book finished, but you can dip in and out at leisure. I am certain this book is available at specialty book stores as well as from Amazon.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, September 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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