TWO OF THE DEADLIEST edited by Elizabeth George

Book Quote:

“Stella’s e-mail was rich in metaphor, lacking in love. But Stella had never been rich in love.  Stella preferred lust. Good old-fashioned, I-want-you-in-the-worst-way lust.

Not hers naturally.


Book Review:

Review by Chuck Barksdale (SEP 25, 2009)

Elizabeth George has assembled a very enjoyable collection of new mystery short stories by twenty-three known and new authors, including one by the editor herself. The “Two” in Two of the Deadliest refers to two of the seven deadly sins, lust and greed. Each story includes one or both of these sins with varying degrees of success in incorporating these themes into the story.

At the end of introduction by Elizabeth George, she provides a good summary of the variety of stories included:

“Throughout Two of the Deadliest, all of the contributors have taken a different look at what constitutes lust and greed and at where submitting to the calls of these sins can lead a person. You’ll find good guys, bad guys, and in-between guys. You’ll find mystery, mistakes, misunderstandings, and murder, generated from the minds of terrific women writers. In all cases, I hope you enjoy.”

Many famous authors are included and “Your Turn” by Carolyn Hart is one of the best stories. This story seems to fall into the more traditional mystery formats when a man with cancer leaves messages behind to his young adulteress wife after she helps accelerate his death.

One author, more familiar for her science fiction writing, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, also wrote one of the best stories, “E-Male.” A former lover illegally reads his ex-girlfriend’s emails and discovers she may be in danger and needs to find a way to help without incriminating himself. Although she often writes under her Kris Nelscott pseudonym while writing mystery stories, this one is included under her real name.

Other famous writers include Allison Brennan with “A Capitol Obsession” one of the longer stories in the collection and one that I found interesting in parts but overall disappointing as a female senator investigates the murder of a lobbyist. Patricia Smiley’s “The Offer” was probably the best story to focus primarily on greed as an unemployed woman allows her greed to take over as she impersonates someone who is late for her interview. This is probably the one story in the collection that draws you in the most and although not the best written, is definitely the most memorable.

All of the stories by the five relatively unknown authors, some of whom are published for the first time in this collection, were certainly as well written as any by the more established writers’ stories. Of particular note were “Anything Helps” by Z. Kelly and “Back to School Essay” by Patricia Fogarty. In “Anything Helps” a woman that works in a casino store must deal with the “lust” of the odd and leering men that enter the special room to see the “erotica” within. This woman is just making enough money to get by but seems to have a strange beggar watch over and protect her while she works. In “Back to School Essay,” the well written story is presented from the perspective of a 16-year old boy as he returns to school and writes about his summer where he worked in a laundrymat and lusted after a female patron.

Although I read mostly mystery novels and short stories, I was not very familiar with many of the authors including some of the more well known ones, such as Nancy Pickard, Marcia Talley, and Linda Barnes. This is primarily since I have a tendency to read male readers so this collection was a good opportunity to read some new authors and decide who I’d like to read more. I have only recently begun reading Laura Lippman, and her entry, “Cougar” was certainly enjoyable and I will certainly continue to read her books. This was also certainly true of the authors I knew even better such as Marcia Muller (having read almost all of her books) and S. J. Rozan (who I need to read more). As mentioned above, I really enjoyed the Carolyn Hart and Kristine Kathryn Rusch stories and will look to read some of their novels. I was most disappointed by the story by Wendy Hornsby, “The Violinist” which seemed more of a non-fiction account of Jack London than a historical fiction story. I have a collection by Ms. Hornsby and was hoping this new story would be a good lead in to her other stories.

One of the nice features of the book is a short biography of each author. I found this particularly helpful since although I may have heard of most of the authors, I really didn’t know too much about many of them so I was able to gain some more background. Sometimes I read the biography before reading the story and sometimes after but usually both when the story was especially entertaining.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 4 readers
PUBLISHER: Harper; First Edition edition (July 21, 2009)
REVIEWER: Chuck Barksdale
AMAZON PAGE: Two of the Deadliest
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Elizabeth George
EXTRAS: “Browse Inside”  Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More mystery collections:

The Female of the Species by Joyce Carol Oates

Dangerous Women by Otto Penzler

New Orleans Noir by Julie Smith


More short story collections edited by Elizabeth George:

September 25, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Mystery/Suspense, Short Stories

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