Unusual Suspects: Stories of Mystery & Fantasy Paperback – Dec 2 2008
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About the Author
Dana Stabenow is the Edgar Award-winning author of Fire and Ice, So Sure of Death, and several other acclaimed mysteries. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Evidently enough of you enjoyed Powers of Detection so much that Ginjer Buchanan at Ace Science Fiction thought a second collection was a good idea. On behalf of all the authors included herein, thank you!
Most of the usual suspects are back, with the addition of Michael Stackpole and Carole Nelson Douglas. Who would want to kill Sam Spade? Carole's got an answer for that, and Michael's got a new take on scapegoats that, okay, I know somebody gets killed and that's a bad thing, but I'm still laughing as I write these words.
Laurie King and Sharon Shinn offer up ghost stories, both with a very high goosebump index. Interesting how the spookiest stories often have the least amount of gore.
Donna Andrews returns to the Westmarch College of Magical Studies and the adventures of Gwynn the apprentice, who this time saves master mage Justinian from a fate worse than death. Charlaine Harris returns to Bon Temps, Louisiana, where the vampires are out by night and the insurance agents by day. What's the difference, really? Sookie Stackhouse knows.
Laura Anne Gilman introduces us to a cave dragon for a loan shark, and Simon Green takes us back into the Nightside for a grim little tale of justice delayed but not denied. Mike Doogan, tongue firmly in cheek, magicks up a traveling salesman story, Michael Armstrong indulges in a little global wishful thinking, and John Straley tells us where Santa Claus really goes during the off season.
Myself, I went back to Mnemosynea, for another tale of Seer and Sword. Turns out I like that world so much the Mage Guild commissioned me to write a Mnemosynean world almanac. I've even got a map now. And I admit, the ending of "A Woman's Work" involves a little wishful thinking of my own.
The great thing about fantastical fiction is its ability to put any ending on a question beginning "What if?" What if Santa goes Down Under on vacation? What if a cave dragon loan shark wants to make good on an investment? What if video games achieve the level of reality, what rights belong to the characters created therein?
In her introduction to The Norton Book of Science Fiction, Ursula K. LeGuin wrote, "In a story where only what ordinarily occurs is going to occur, one can safely use such a sentence as, 'He was absorbed in the landscape.' In a story where only the story tells you what is likely to happen, you had best be careful about using sentences like that."
And of course the great thing about crime fiction, aside from the universal human love of a mystery, is that by the end there is always a resolution, and, sometimes, justice.
Put murder in a fantasy setting, and "If you die, I'll kill you!" becomes a credible threat.
At least in here. Be careful how you go.
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Final take: not great literature, but fun enough if you enjoy the genre!
That's largely because these authors are all household names, at least if your household has a big fan of mystery or science fiction and fantasy. (And really, how could it NOT?!) The book has 12 short stories from Donna Andrews, Michael Armstrong, Mike Doogan, Carole Nelson Douglas, Laura Anne Gilman, Simon R. Green, Charlaine Harris, Laurie King, Sharon Shinn, Dana Stabenow, Michael Stackpole, and John Straley. I've read work by a few of those authors (and I've broken bread with two of them), but I certainly wasn't familiar with the work of every contributor.
Stabenow, who compiled and edited the stories, gave the authors a pretty wide guideline: paranormal mysteries. As a result, the subjects addressed are all over the map, from haunted houses to ghost stories to fantasy worlds that just so happen to have a random dead body to deal with. I rather suspect you'll look first at the authors you already like (which meant I flipped directly to Laurie King's haunted-house story, which I quite enjoyed). But then I curled up with the rest, some of which have a distinct "heavy fantasy" feel (like Stackpole's "Looks Are Deceiving") and others a cozy mystery flavor (like Sharon Shinn's contribution). I think there was only one short story that lost my interest, causing me to skip forward to the next one in the book.
Like a lot of mystery and SF/F fans, I find an author I like and I tend to read EVERYthing they've written. I assumed, correctly, that this short story collection would give me a few new authors to seek out. I'm sure you'll feel the same way.
Those are just a few of the stories featured in this anthology. I very much enjoyed each one and I've found a lot of new authors that I will definitely check out more of their works. I just wish some of the stories would have been longer, like Illumination by Laura Anne Gilman which was about Bonnie trying to find her dad, Zaki, who has gone missing. I really enjoyed it and would have loved it there was a bit more but that's the thing with anthologies, they're short stories. Green's Appetite for Murder was also a great one, but I'm a big fan of his Nightside series.
Unusual Suspects is fill with exciting, mysterious, funny stories that will please fans of both mystery and fantasy. It will introduced readers to great new authors and help them revisit the worlds they already loved.