A Merry Band of Murders
An Original Mystery Anthology of Songs and Stories by Claudia Bishop and Don Bruns, editors
Review: Publishers take a risk with anthologies in that they rarely appeal to a broad range of readers. Poisoned Pen Press has mitigated this risk in two ways with A Merry Band of Murderers: by assembling a collection of short story mysteries that are similar in style (not a vampire, cozy cat, or Prada shoe in sight) and have a common theme (music). The success of this book is likely to be based on two factors: how many of the 13 stories are "good" and how many of these stories seamlessly integrate the author's original musical compositions into the plot.
With respect to the first criterion, A Merry Band of Murderers is a winner. Eight of the thirteen mystery stories are competently written, have carefully constructed plots, and include interesting, well-defined characters. Three are particularly noteworthy: Mary Anna Evans' Land of the Flowers, Jeffery Deaver's The Fan, and Val McDermid's Long Black Veil. (Two to skip: Rupert Holmes' Shuffle which is decidedly creepy, and not in a good way; and Courage, the dreadful story by Don Bruns, the only rational reason being for its inclusion in this anthology is that Bruns is an editor.)
A Merry Band of Murderers is less successful when measured against the second criterion. Only three, maybe four, stories have a musical element that forms an integral part of the plot. In some, music plays no role whatsoever.
Each story ends with an overview of the author's musical composition and an interview along the lines of Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton.
On balance, A Merry Band of Murderers is an admirable anthology of short stories by a skilled company of mystery authors. The fact that the authors are also accomplished musicians seems more coincidental than intentional.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of A Merry Band of Murders for this review.
Review Copyright © 2006 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in A Merry Band of Murders:
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A Merry Band of Murders by Claudia Bishop and Don Bruns, editors — An Original Mystery Anthology of Songs and Stories
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: August 2006
List Price: $24.95