Edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Loren L. Coleman
Review by Carolyn Frank
DAW Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756405380
Date: 03 February 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Add magic to misdeeds and you get Crime Spells, an anthology of crime stories with the underlying premise of magic. Some of these criminals are magical, some are not; some motives are magic-related, some are merely human; sometimes the human judicial system prevails; sometimes a magical one and sometimes the wrongdoer gets away. In each of these sixteen tales, well-known and little-known science fiction writers have successfully crossed genres, mixing magic with mayhem.
In "Witness to the Fall," by Jay Lake, the only magic is that of the scrivener (scribe). Mr. Thorne, through the inks that he combines, can draw out the truth of a situation. A woman has been drowned in a small rural town and Mr. Thorne is summoned to bring forth the understanding of the tragedy. The magically derived drawing only serves to underline the human truths to which none of the men involved had ever been willing to confess.
In "The Best Defense" by Kristine Katherine Rausch, the defendant is possibly a wizard, but the defense attorney, John Lundgren, is just an overworked human DA. Having been appointed to defend by virtue of being in the courtroom at the time, John has no sense of his new client. Even after finding out that his client is deemed responsible for blowing up a house with sixteen people in it, John manages to free his client from the human courts. It's just the magical courts that pose the problem.
In "Call of the Second Wolf" by Steven Mohan, Jr., everyone in this battle between the Russian and Chinese Mafias in a version of Chicago has magic, including the Chicago Police Department. The issue is that someone stole $32 million of heroin from the Chinese Mafia and they want it back. Valeri Kozlov, the second in command of the Russian Mafia, has been sent to parley with the Chinese and figure out what happened. The Chicago PD as representative of human justice does not figure largely in the resolution, but magic does.
In "She's Not There" by Steve Perry, no magic exists in and around Portland except for Darla. Having no idea from where her talent came, Darla can make herself into a copy of anyone she touches. Darla has learned to take the greatest advantage of this by selectively stealing at half-year-long intervals from Portland's wealthiest citizens. This method keeps her very well off until she comes up against someone who can top her every move.
The quality of the stories varies widely, but if one does not appeal, the next one certainly will. Fantasy readers will enjoy the sometimes innovative methods of employing magic and mystery-lovers will find well-constructed plots with intriguing protagonists. A few fantasy creatures wander through but the emphasis is on humans, with magic to command. Whether the magic is for greater good or their own good, the folk in these stories ensure that the readers' entertainment is a worthy price for their crimes.