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May 11, 2012 / John Sheridan

Review: Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance

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Links: Amazon UK, Amazon

The introduction by Lee Child provides a fascinating insight into how the authors were chosen for this compilation – one story written by himself, 10 invitees selected by himself and 10 winning entries from a blind submission process. Pleasingly some of my favourite stories from this collection also came through this blind submission process.

As is my wont, I read out of order kicking off with Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch story “A fine mist of blood” because that’s the number one reason for me to be reading this collection in the first place. In fact, the common denominator of most short story collections I’ve read over the last few years is a Harry Bosch story. As with all short stories they have to be shorter and sharper, no time for misdirection so what you get instead is of the short sharp shock variety.

Given the theme of vengeance, we encounter vengeful vigilantes, vengeful wifes, what else to come? Answer vengeful assassins and that’s only two stories in – the second being authored by Dennis Lehane.

The targets for the vengeance being wrought tend to be criminals, husbands and bankers and who can argue with that? Most of the authors represented are skilful enough that they can in the space of a few pages establish a convincing reason for the reader to side (generally) with the person who has decided to avenge themselves or others on some poor unfortunate.

Add vengeful cops to that list courtesy of Twist Phelan but Zoe Sharp outdoes this with a priest on both sides of the equation as both victim and nemesis. Rick McMahan’s story of moonshiners, vietnam vets and mine unions is a standout. I also particularly enjoyed Hot Sugar Blues by Steve Liskow which heavily references various blues musicians and Brendan Dubois, who in the vein of The Ides of March, skewers the political fixers who run campaigns and who favour expediency over values. And then we get Mike Cooper and his act of retribution on behalf of those impoverished by a Gordon Gekko style “entrepreneur” that strips company assets along side those of the former employees. Another priest to the fore in CE Lawrence’s “Silent Justice” who comes up with a unique solution to the restrictions of the confessional box.

There are 3 maybe 4 lacklustre entries in all but it merits a rating of 4 out of 5 overall.

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