Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Edgar Winners: Review

The Edgar Winners: 33rd Annual Anthology of the Mystery Writers of America edited by Bill Pronzini gives us twenty-four of the stories that have been selected as winners of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Excellence.  It would be safe to assume that all of these stories should be knock-out mysteries...detective fiction...crime fiction.  Right?  Well...pretty much.  There are some just brilliant stories here.  My favorites: "After Dinner Story," "Lamb to the Slaughter," "Over There--Darkness," and "Moonlight Gardener."  There are some that have an element of the supernatural or the bizarre: "The House Party," "The Chosen One," and "In the Forests of Riga the Beasts Are Very Wild Indeed."  There are also a couple that I just don't get or much care for the style: ""Like a Terrible Scream" and "The Chosen One" (double-billing!).  

And one that I'm a little uncomfortable with.... Yes, Harlan Ellison's story starts out with a murder.  Can't fault him there.  But there's no mystery.  There's no detection.  Don't get me wrong--I love Ellison.  The man can write...and he can turn his characters inside out like no one else can.  This is a marvelous study of the psychology of the city-dweller.  It's pitch-perfect in sound....and feel...and atmosphere.  Does it deserve an Edgar?  Absolutely--but more in the spirit of "The Masque of the Red Death" or "The Premature Burial" than "The Purloined Letter" or "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

A very nice collection indeed.  Four stars.

"The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party" by Ellery Queen: Like the adventures of Alice, this one has a slightly surreal feeling to it--from the odd "gifts" appearing on the doorstep to the mirror that disappears and reappears much like the Cheshire cat.

"After-Dinner Story" by William Irish: Seven men get on an elevator...with the operator, that makes eight.  When the elevator plunges from the tenth floor to the basement only six will come out alive.  The operator dies of his injuries, but the eighth man has been shot...with his own gun and apparently by his own hand.  It's officially ruled a suicide, but the man's father refuses to accept that and takes unique measures to find justice.

"Catfish Story" by Lawrence G. Blochman: A professor of ichthyology tells a story of sleepwalking and accidentally knocking a man downstairs...killing him.  Detective Max Ritter smells a fish story, but does that mean the professor is guilty?  Ritter throws out some bait and the professor and his wife are surprised at the catch of the day.

"Love Lies Bleeding" by Philip MacDonald: Cyprian has always been able to rely on Charles when he needed help.  But when he needs help to escape a murder charge, will the price be too high?

"Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl: A very clever way to get rid of the evidence....

"The House Party" by Stanley Ellis: What if you had to relive your mistakes....and your murder...over and over again?

"The Blessington Method" by Stanley Ellis:  Well, that's one way to deal with an elderly relative....

"Over There--Darkness" by William O'Farrell: Miss Fox learns that there are worse things than having your diamond and emerald ring stolen.

"The Landlady" by Roald Dahl: Bill Weaver meets a landlady who has fetish for stuffing her pets.

"The Sailing Club" by David Ely: What do successful business men do when they no longer get quite the same thrill out of closing a successful deal? They hope to be elected to the elite Sailing Club.  A nice boat trip will certainly get the ol' blood flowing.  Somebody's blood anyway.

"This Will Kill You" by Patrick Quentin: Harry Lund decides he wants to be rid of his wife.  He doesn't realize how hard it's going to be on him....

"H as in Homicide" by Lawrence Treat: Two young women set out for California.  One disappears and winds up dead.  Detective Mitch Taylor thinks he's going to wow his lieutenant with his brilliance....but a confession beats him to the punch.

"The Chosen One" by Rhys Davies:  Mrs. Vines has a very odd obsession with the man who lives in the cottage at the end of her property.  It may well be her undoing....

"The Oblong Room" by Edward D. Hoch: How far would you go for someone you worshiped as a god?  Would you die for them?  Would you do murder?

"The Man Who Fooled the World" by Warner Law: What's a little painting forgery among "friends"?

"Goodbye Pops" by Joe Gores: The black sheep of the family breaks jail to go home and say goodbye to his dad.  He may get a longer stretch as a result.

"In the Forests of Riga the Beasts Are Very Wild Indeed" by Margery Finn Brown:  This one is so bizarre that I'm not even sure what to say about it.  The real mystery here is....has a crime been committed?

"Moonlight Gardener" by Robert L. Fish:  reminiscent of Cornell Woolrich's "It Had to Be Murder" (On which the film Rear Window was based)--with a twist.

"The Purple Shroud" by Joyce Harrington:  George Moon cheats on his wife once too often.  Don't be fooled by that placid smile, George.

"The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" by Harlan Ellison: a study of the beast that lies within the average city-dweller.

"The Jail" by Jesse Hill Ford:  What happens when a pretend sheriff dreams up the "perfect" jail?

"Like a Terrible Scream" by Etta Revesz: There are some things a younger brother just doesn't need to know.

"Chance After Chance" by Thomas Walsh:  Can a drunken, defrocked priest redeem himself?  But what of the stolen money--will that be too big a temptation to resist?

"The Cloud Beneath the Eaves" by Barbara Owens: Alice has just a little bit of a Daddy fixation....just a bit.


Landslide said...

I read "Lamb to the Slaughter" in highschool and loved it. To this day that's the example I always give of the perfect crime.

Man of la Book said...

An interesting collection. Short stories are not my "thing" (maybe they should be).

Debbie Rodgers said...

I bought this book when it was published in 1980 and have re-read it so many times, it's held together with elastics, like an old cookbook. lol

Bev Hankins said...

@Debbie: There's something about the binding...mine is a used copy I picked up and the glue has all dried out so the cover is starting to come off.