Friday, October 5, 2012

Book Reviews

Ellen Hart, Carl Brookins, and William Kent Krueger tour together as The Minnesota Crime Wave. These three have championed the cause of short stories by Minnesota authors via two previous anthologies: Silence of the Loons: Thirteen Tales of Mystery by Minnesota Premier Writers and Resort to Murder: Thirteen More Tales of Mystery by Minnesota Premier Writers.

Now they present us with a new anthology, Fifteen Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Malice from the Land of Minnesota Nice.

Peter Hautman's excellent introduction sets the stage for short mysteries of every manner, and Marilyn Victor's This Old House kicks off the collection in a startling way. Her tale of two aging sisters feuding over a hidden inheritance has a twist ending that will surprise and delight readers. The Dark Under the Bed, by Richard A. Thompson, is both spooky and disturbing in its portrayal of "the shadow men" who "always come for you at night". This one will give you the chills. 

And then there's Michael Allan Mallory's Desperados, a story of two bank robbers who, when their getaway car breaks down, make the mistake of hiding out in the home of a very resourceful older couple. Brains over brawn wins the day in this fine tale.

Death by Potato Salad features Mrs. Berns from Jess Lourey's Murder-by-Mouth series set in Battle Lake, Minnesota. The town's All Church weekend retreat has never been so lively as this year when Mrs. Berns attend the "Day One Icebreaker Class" called "Miracles with Mayonnaise". Lourey proves once again that even murder can be humorous at times.

Mary Logue, author of the Claire Watkins mysteries, offers two thought-provoking poems to the collection. Her work is followed by Lori L. Lake's An Age-Old Solution, in which two women handle a blackmailer's demands in a most unusual and cunning way.

Next in line is a fine piece by William Kent Krueger. Set in an earlier time, Woman In Ice tells the story of a girl found encased in a block of lake ice and the many townsfolk who visit the local priest believing they are to blame for the young woman's death. This one ends with a twist that I should have seen coming, but didn't.

David Housewright's A Turn of the Card follows a high profile crook's decision making dependence on the reading of Tarot cards by a beautiful young woman. The twists and turns in this story carry through to the end in a most clever and satisfying manner.

Ellen Hart brings a touch of the supernatural to Overstuffed, the story of a woman determined to take revenge on the ex-husband of her dead sister. The author of twenty-eight novels, Hart knows how to weave a tale and does so in a convincing manner in this well written story.

Elizabeth Gunn gives us a solid police procedural story in The Butler Didn't. Was it murder by improvisation, or death by neglect?  One thing is for sure: the butler didn't do it.

Howard T. Crandell is the best actuary in the Twin Cities. On the bad side, his habit of thinking only in term of statistics costs him his job in Lois Greiman's Iced. On the good side, it helps him catch a murderer. This is a character you'll come to love, flaws and all.

Pat Dennis is known for her humorous take on life. That humor shows up in Minnesota Iced where a long-suffering wife decides to terminate her mother-in-law's unwelcome visit by terminating her life. Who said ice fishing wasn't fun? Not Pat! :)

Carl Brookins is known for the three mystery series he writes, all of them set in Minnesota. The Horse He Rode In On features the star of one of those series, private investigator Sean Sean. Terminally short--or height challenged, as he puts it--Sean doesn't enjoy investigating a death while riding a horse that's taller than he. But horses played a part in the death of a city councilman. Sean must figure out exactly what that part was.

Judith Yates Borger writes of friendship gone wrong in Stone Arch Bridge. Kate and Anna had been sidekicks since kindergarten. But then along came Josh, and there went Anna. Can Kate save her friend from a fate worse than death? Only in an unexpected way.

Joel Arnold's Blue-Eyed Mary ends this fine anthology. This well-crafted tale speaks of the love of a son for his mother and the lengths to which he'll go to protect her. This is a sad little story in which the reader's empathy will stretch to include both the living and the dead. Perhaps that is why it was chosen as the concluding story in the collection; the emotions it plays to are so true to real life. 

If you enjoy short stories, I highly recommend you read this latest anthology presented by The Minnesota Crime Wave. You won't regret it.



  1. First, Mary, thank you so much for reviewing the anthology. Second, thanks for the nice comments!

  2. Sounds like a great anthology. You did a great job reviewing this, Mary. It's not easy to review an anthology.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. You're welcome, Michael. Yours was a great story.

    I love short stories, Morgan. They're so difficult to write and so satisfying to read. Glad you enjoyed the review.