Sunday, June 5, 2016
Manhattan Mayhem edited by Mary Higgins Clark
Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
From Wall Street and Greenwich Village to Chinatown, Harlem, and beyond, the street and skyscrapers are brimming with crimes and misdemeanors. Now, best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark invites you on a tour of these iconic neighborhoods in Manhattan Mayhem, and anthology of all-new stories from Mystery Writers of America, produced to commemorate its 70th anniversary. In Lee Child's "The Picture of the Lonely Diner," legendary drifter Jack Reacher interrupts a curious stand-off in the shadow of the Flatiron Building. In Jeffery Deaver's "The Baker of Bleecker Street," an Italian immigrant becomes ensnared in WWII espionage. And in "The Five-Dollar Dress," Mary Higgins Clark unearths the contents of a mysterious hope chest found in an apartment on Union Square. With additional stories from T. Jefferson Parker, S.J. Rozan, Nancy Pickard, Ben H. Winters, Brendan DuBois, Persia Walker, Jon L. Breen, N.J. Ayres, Angela Zeman, Thomas H. Cook, Judith Kelman, Margaret Maron, Justing Scott, and Julie Hyzy, Manhattan Mayhem is teeming with red herrings, likely suspects, and thoroughly satisfying mysteries.
I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm addicted to short stories. There is almost nothing better than a perfectly crafted tale, told in a short amount of space, that doesn't leave you feeling cheated as you read the last word. I've always been in awe of the ability it takes to take a story idea, to boil it down to it's core, all the while keeping it as complex and rewarding as a full length novel. Some of my favorite authors, Shirley Jackson and Flannery O'Connor among them, were brilliant short story writers. After reading Manhattan Mayhem, authors who I have always enjoyed, have now proven to me that they are just as good at writing a well crafted short story.
As in any short story collection, there were a few in this one that just didn't work for me, but that has more to do with taste, than the author's ability. There are a few that are set in the past, including one with a bit of time travel, and since I've never been a huge fan of historical fiction, I could have done without them. And there were a couple that I could classify as short thrillers, more than mysteries, and I'm not a huge fan of those either. Overall though, I think Mary Higgins Clark, and the Mystery Writers of America, put together a stunning anthology that worked to show of Manhattan in all it's diverse glory.
The collection starts with "The Five-Dollar Dress," by Mary Higgins Clark, and it was a fitting start. For me, it was a perfect example of what a good short story should look like. It was well crafted and concise, without robbing the reader of necessary information. It told a complete story, beginning to end, but it left me wanting more. I want to know what the character does with the information she discovers, of how she handles what can now be perceived of as the truth.
"White Rabbit," by Julie Hyzy, is a brilliant short that takes place within a time span of 30 minutes at the most, but the tension is so well done, I felt I was sitting on the Central Park bench for hours instead. "Three Little Words," by Nancy Pickard brought me into the world of the elite residents on the Upper West Side. At least those who are trying to keep family secrets hidden, and are willing to go to great lengths to do so. "Damage Control," by Thomas H. Cook, while not a mystery in the strongest sense of the word, broke my heart in it's examination of human frailty and misunderstandings. "Trapped!," by Ben H. Winters, an author I already love, allowed his cast of Chelsea actors to showcase his sense of humor and timing, proving that he is another Ira Levin. "Red-Headed Stepchild," by Margaret Maron is what I would expect from the aforementioned Shirley Jackson, if she has been writing a story of selfish kids on the Upper East Side. There were a few other stories I enjoyed, but these were the ones that truly blew me away.
This anthology has already added quite a few books to my ever expanding wish list, I'm just hoping that the Mystery Writers of America keeps these anthologies coming. I'm not sure if this was a one time idea, but I can easily get behind books that explore the neighborhoods of Boston, New Orleans, or even Chicago. As long as the murders, and other misdeeds, are as intelligently conceived as they are in Manhattan Mayhem, I'll be there, ready to dig in.