Manhattan Mayhem

Edited by Mary Higgins Clark

Quirk Books. 320 pp. $18.50

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Reviewed by

Peter Rozovsky


Manhattan Mayhem

includes 17 crime stories, and it celebrates the 70th anniversary of Mystery Writers of America. Published by Philly-based Quirk Books, it's a showcase of good mystery writers exploiting setting in the spinning of their tales.

The selection spans a range of styles and subgenres, from Margaret Maron's dark domestic suspense to a Jack Reacher espionage thriller from Lee Child. Brendan DuBois' suggestively titled "The Day After Victory" is one of several historical mysteries. Judith Kelman's "Sutton Death Overtime" veers into comic-cozy territory.

Jon L. Breen's "Serial Benefactor" is an entertaining Broadway puzzle mystery that spans decades and might remind readers of Craig Rice with its fast-talking, wisecracking show business types. In Justin Scott's "Evermore," protagonists leap backward and forward in time. T. Jefferson Parker's "Me and Mikey" is a dark, generation-bridging gangster tale, perhaps the best in the book.

The diversity extends to setting as well: Each story is set in or on a different Manhattan neighborhood, building, or river.

Child's contribution, a good one, lays on the tourism a bit heavily, name-checking well-known locations with just the slightest whiff of the guidebook. Fair play to him. Child is British, although he spends most of his time in New York these days, and perhaps he still enjoys the novelty of Manhattan's sights and sounds. He chose the Flatiron District as his setting, and he makes of its angular buildings and empty nighttime streets a Modernist High Noon set for the confrontation between Reacher and a spy.

Mary Higgins Clark does double duty as editor and contributor. Her nicely paced story hinges on a piece of evidence that turns up when the protagonist cleans out a dead relative's apartment. Think country-house Gothic transplanted to Union Square.

Persia Walker's "Dizzy and Gillespie" does not just evoke a neighborhood rich in associations (Harlem); it also brings that past into uneasy relationship with its gentrifying present. Even better, that relationship is no mere backdrop; the protagonist internalizes it thoroughly. Location is psychological as well as physical - as in Julie Hyzy's "White Rabbit," a piece of dark psychological suspense with an ending I did not see coming.

The best title has to be S.J. Rozan's "Chin Yong-Yun Makes a Shiddach," evidence that Rozan has a sense of humor and that Manhattan offers a rich field for stories.

Peter Rozovsky is an Inquirer copy editor. He writes about crime fiction at Detectives Beyond Borders (detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com).