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Unusual Suspects: Stories of Mystery & Fantasy
Edited by Dana Stabenow
Cover Artist: Jonathan Barket
Review by Gayle Surrette
Ace Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441016372
Date: 02 December 2008 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Unusual Suspects: Stories of Mystery and Fantasy is a collection of all new stories by an interesting mix of authors known in the mystery and/or the fantasy genres. But no matter where the story is set, in our world or a fantasy world, there is a mystery to be solved.

Charlaine Harris starts out the collection with a Sookie Stackhouse story, "Lucky". Amelia Broadway and Sookie have been asked by Greg Aubert, Sookie's insurance agent to find out who has been breaking into his office. As Sookie and Amelia investigate, they find that there's more going on than meets the eye.

In "Bogieman", Carole Nelson Douglas's character Delilah Street is called in to investigate the murder of Sam Spade, a CinSim working at the Inferno. Delilah hasn't got much time because the police don't really care about the death of a CinSim. After all, it's not like they have rights. But the casino owner does care and wants Delilah to get find the killer. There's enough twists and turns to keep any mystery reader enthrall until the final scene.

Michael A. Stakpole in "Looks Are Deceiving" has his detective searching for a killer while the victim is still alive. The Duke has been poisoned and he's convinced that one of his children did the deed. He wants Primin to find the killer, preferably before he succumbs to the poison. This story was a bit difficult to follow as I didn't have any knowledge of the world or society in which it takes place. Never the less, the basic gathering of clues and information helps to fill in a lot of the background. I found the ending to be a bit like pulling a rabbit out of a hat -- but, that's just me.

"The House of Seven Spirits" by Sharon Shinn was a delightful story. Erica needs to find a place to live that she can afford. The house is perfect and the rent is right because it's haunted by seven ghosts. They can't be laid to rest until the Martin is at rest. Erica sets out to find out what really happened the night Martin killed his wife and her lover. The relationship between Erica and the seven spirits in the house is touching and amusing -- I was sorry to reach the last page of this story.

Mike Doogan's "Glamour" wasn't much of a mystery since the clues were all lined up and in plain sight. But the interactions of the characters and the obliviousness of some of them to what was happening around them made this light-hearted story a joy to read.

Another light-hearted and entertaining story is Donna Andrews' "Spellbound". The Westmarch College of Magical Studies is hosting a conference and some of the attendees are not what others consider proper magical uses -- there are even witches included in the conference. Tempers are running high. Gwynn has observed that some strange spells are appearing throughout the College and she and Master Justinian must find out what's going on and who is behind the chaos. The story is told with Andrew's usual humor and tight plotting.

In "The Duh Vice" by Michael Armstrong, the US has instituted some strict rules regarding the use of resources. An officer of the Resource Allocation Department (RAD) is sent to monitor heat leakage at the home of Mr. Novak. Indeed there is excess heat being vented from Novak's home that makes it a Class One crime. But, that's only the beginning of the trouble for the RAD officer.

John Straley's "Weight of the World" will change the way you look at Santa and his elves and challenge your concept of Christmas. The gifts have all been delivered and Santa and his delivery team are set to have a few weeks vacation in New Zealand until, bare minutes after they land, one of the elves is found dead -- murdered. It's up to Santa to solve the crime and soon because a very important artifact of Christmas preparation is also missing.

"Illumination" by Laura Anne Gilman takes place in the world of her Retrievers series. Bonny has talent, more than her father, so she was sent to live with her mentor at age eight. But when the word comes that her father is missing, Bonny and J, her mentor, begin to investigate. This is a touching story of love, family, loyalty, and forgiveness.

In "The House", Laurie R. King manages to tell a wonderful story of childhood friendship and raise the hairs on the back of the neck at the same time. Brad lives near a house that has been abandoned for years. But unlike most such houses, no one has every broken in -- ever. Brad and his friend Bea decide to do a school project on the history of the house. But there's more to the house than meets the eye.

Sam Warren is a detective in the Nightside, and they want to retire him, but maybe if he solves this last case, he'll be able to stay. Simon R. Green's Nightside is a haven for every form of villainy, but they don't put up with serial killers. In "Appetite for Murder", Sam Warren is assigned to find the newest Nightside serial killer. Working with Ms. Fate, they painstakingly look for clues. There's a logical but surprising twist at the end.

The final story in the book is Dana Stabenow's "A Woman's Work". Crowfoot, The Sword, and Sharryn, The Seer have been dispatched to Kalliope to sit in on the next judgements for King's Justice. Kalliope is a province that seems to be going rapidly downhill. The key case to be judged is that of the murder of the heir to Kalliope, who was a babe in arms. Women are looked down on as lesser beings and of no worth in Kalliope and now two women have been sent by the king to pass judgement on another. There are some twists and turns in this tale along with some well developed detail that makes the society and people come alive.

All in all a great set of stories.

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