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David R. Eastwood
- Published on Amazon.com
All in all, Martin H. Greenberg's anthology MURDER MOST DELECTABLE: SAVORY TALES OF CULINARY CRIMES (2000) is disappointing. Readers who already own the anthology MURDER ON THE MENU (1984), edited by Greenberg with the help of Carol-Lynn Rössel Waugh and Isaac Asimov, should know that the earlier book is better and that four of the stories Greenberg chose for this one were in the earlier one (Ruth Rendell's, Rex Stout's, Janwillem van de Wetering's, and Nedra Tyre's) .
The 18 stories in this book are "The Last Bottle in the World" by Stanley Ellin, "Takeout" by Joyce Christmas, "The Case of the Shaggy Caps" by Ruth Rendell, "The Cassoulet" by Walter Satterthwait, "Tea for Two" by M. D. Lake, "The Second-Oldest Profession" by Linda Grant, "Connoisseur" by Bill Pronzini, "Gored" by Bill Crider, "Day for a Picnic" by Edward D. Hoch, "Guardian Angel" by Caroline Benton, "The Main Event" by Peter Crowther, "The Deadly Egg" by Janwillem van de Wetering, "Dead and Breakfast" by Barbara Collins, "Recipe for a Happy Marriage" by Nedra Tyre, "Death Cup" by Joyce Carol Oates, "Poison Peach" by Gillian Linscott, "Of Course You Know That Chocolate Is a Vegetable" by Barbara D'Amato, and "Poison à la Carte" by Rex Stout.
Of the 18 selections, the best in my view is the Nero Wolfe story by Rex Stout, offering us Archie's wit and Wolfe's successful trap. Slightly below this, I'd place Ellin's clever premise story about a murderer who cannot be punished and Rendell's and Linscott's fine puzzlers--an Inspector Wexford puzzler that ends inconclusively and a Victorian-era puzzler that may not be to everyone's taste.
Three stories I considered somewhat flawed for various reasons were Edward D. Hoch's, Janwillem van de Wetering's, and Barbara D'Amato's. The first two of these are fair-play puzzle stories; the third is kind of "revenge fantasy" about a mystery writer and a book critic (it was awarded an AGATHA, an ANTHONY, and a MACAVITY in 1999, but in my view it is heavy-handed and has been over-rated).
Next, four stories that I felt were just middling were Grant's ironic premise story about a middle-aged hit-woman, Pronzini's ironic premise story about a nasty wine connoisseur, Crider's easy-to-solve puzzler about a sheriff who likes peach ice cream, and Collins's well-written but very predictable premise story about the secret ingredient served at a bed and breakfast.
Below these, I would rank Satterthwait's semi-amusing premise story (which mixes up voluntary and involuntary muscles) and Benton's rather lame premise story about a woman who does not wish to move to another house.
And five stories I felt were a waste of time were by Joyce Christmas, M. D. Lake, Peter Crowther, Joyce Carol Oates, and Nedra Tyre. Christmas's little puzzler/"heroic fantasy" starring Lady Margaret Priam is tepid and implausible; Lake's premise story (another "revenge fantasy" about another mystery writer getting the better of an enemy--this time a fornicating plagiarist) is lame and very implausible, despite the fact that it won an AGATHA in 1998; and Tyre's premise story about a serial poisoner is lame and boring. Most disappointing to me, Oates's moral-deterioration story is long-winded, stylistically pretentious--and lifeless. Finally, Crowther's ironic premise story about one gangster poisoning another with elemental sodium (to make that person explode) is vividly erotic in a couple passages, but it capsizes because of its predictable ending--and because of its author's totally erroneous knowledge of basic chemistry (trust me here--to verify my own views about this, I emailed two doctors, a chemist, a chemistry professor, and a chemical engineer, and I will be happy to discuss this aspect more fully in the "comment" section of this review).
Another way of summarizing my views is that I've given out four A's, three B's, four C's, two D's, and five F's. Among the factors considered are the authors' cleverness and originality, their ability to pace themselves and stay on track, the appropriateness and vividness of the styles in their narration and dialogue, and the plausibility of the various characters and events within their stories.
As a supposed bonus, this anthology contains real-life recipes at the end of each of the stories. And (as one might expect in an anthology involving murder and food) at least one story involves cannibalism.