Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: Virginia Is For Mysteries

If you've never tried to review an anthology, you don't know how hard it is. No matter what you say about the individual stories, one or more of the writers is bound to think, "Oh phooey. She didn't like my story." Not true.

VIRGINIA IS FOR MYSTERIES contains 17 stories, all set in Virginia, all east of Richmond (as if there're no good writers or stories west of Richmond). A Virginia chapter of Sisters in Crime developed the idea of the anthology, with proceeds going to Sisters in Crime. This was truly a labor of love.

Okay, I have to call out several stories which I particularly enjoyed. (Did I hear writers sucking in their collective breaths in hopes I'd pick their contribution? I hope not, but as a writer I'd be holding my breath.)

In Teresa Inge's "Guide to Murder," Connar Randolph leads several tourists on a visit to her home, Cavalier on the Hill, in Virginia Beach. All goes well until one guest makes snarky remarks about restorations. Connar ignores him, leads the group to the roof for a spectacular view and then downstairs to the gardens. Things take a turn for the worse when snarky guest turns up dead. Replete with plot twists and red herrings, "Guide to Murder" leads the reader down an unexpected path at the end.

"Death Comes to Hollywood Cemetery", Vivian Lawry's historical fiction, features a "soiled dove," Civil War era jargon for a prostitute, who has a thriving clientele of Butterflies. These men like their sex a little kinkier that the up-tight times suggest, including cross-dressing and rituals with chocolate and sugar best left to the imagination.

Maggie King's "A Not So Genteel Murder" is set against the backdrop of a birthday party for a wealthy woman, where murder, mayhem, mistaken identities and a healthy dose of the recent past combine to keep the reader turning pages until the last one. And then, the reader will say, "I didn't see that coming."

"Best Friends Help You Move the Body," by Jayne Ormerod, two friends spend boozy nights dreaming up plot twists, but none they imagine is as outrageous as the real thing. One woman is a not-yet-published writer with aspirations of producing a mystery novel.  When the other becomes a person of interest following a murder in her neighborhood, her friend sets out to prove she couldn't lift and carry a body to the trunk of a car. A wonderful girl romp that begs to be enjoyed at the beach.

Last, but by no means least, is "Death in the House" by Rosemary Shomaker. When a member of the Virginia House of Delegates collapses during a discussion on a bill allowing gay marriages, a set of events cascades nearly out of control to the unexpected ending.

17 stories. Each a little gem. Each worthy of reading on the deck, at the beach, in the mountains. A collection to be enjoyed again and again. I'm keeping it in my guest bedroom for late-night perusing.

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