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Book Review: Murder Most Crafty, edited by Maggie Bruce

Mur­der Most Crafty, edit­ed by Mag­gie Bruce, was real­ly uneven. Gillian Roberts’ sto­ry, “Ellie’s Chair,” left me in tears. I’ll def­i­nite­ly be look­ing for more be Jan Burke, and I’ve been a Mon­i­ca Fer­ris fan for years and years. “The Col­lage to Kill For” by Susan Wit­tig Albert was well worth a read, and it was a wise choice as the book’s open­ing sto­ry.

The edi­tor’s own sto­ry, “The Gourd, the Bad, and the Ugly,” just did­n’t work for me. On the bright side, it was­n’t one that I could­n’t stand to fin­ish, and I intend to look for more of her work, as I did like her main char­ac­ter! And it did­n’t feel like an episode of a third-rate 70s detec­tive show, as “Oh, What a Tan­gled Lan­yard We Weave” did. It tru­ly seemed that author Par­nell Hall was reach­ing too far on the crafts con­nec­tion with that one. Was he the token male author here?

Susan Dun­lap cer­tain­ly “got” me with the sur­prise end­ing in “If You Meet the Bud­dha,” but she did­n’t “get” a future read­er at all. There was no sat­is­fac­tion in the sto­ry. It was con­trived. In fact, she seemed to be try­ing very hard to be Lit­er­ary. Not zen, dear.

I did­n’t both­er fin­ish­ing Dorothy Can­nel­l’s “No Good Deed.” The stereo­types were painful. I could see where the sto­ry was going, and I could see sev­er­al ways in which the ends-jus­ti­fy-the-means har­ri­dans would be like­ly to get their come­up­pance. Con­tin­u­ing to read would­n’t have done any­thing for my spir­it, so I did­n’t.

How to Make A Killing Online” by Vic­to­ria Hous­ton real­ly got under my skin. It’s still creep­ing me out. I’m rec­om­mend­ing that one to Jayne Hitch­cock. Maybe WHOA can work out some kind of licens­ing arrange­ment to use it for edu­ca­tion­al pur­pos­es. I’ve still got the hee­bie jee­bies!

Judith Kel­man’s sto­ry, “The M Word,” was well-writ­ten. I’ve always loved bas­kets. I’ve got quite a few of them around the house. I’m just hop­ing I’ll be able to look at them with­out think­ing about this dread­ful sto­ry of betray­al, adul­tery, humil­i­a­tion and mur­der. I real­ly should­n’t have read this one. I near­ly stopped read­ing it when I start­ed real­iz­ing what it was about, and I should def­i­nite­ly have fol­lowed my instincts.

Mar­garet Maron’s “Bewreathed” was okay. Noth­ing excit­ing, noth­ing dread­ful. I kept won­der­ing about con­flicts of inter­est.

Suja­ta Massey’s “The Deep­est Blue” is anoth­er one that creeped me out. In fact, I don’t real­ly feel like it and Kel­man’s sto­ries were mys­ter­ies at all. I’d have to clas­si­fy them as well-writ­ten hor­ror. Prob­a­bly not hor­ror by today’s stan­dards, but hor­ror in the clas­sic sense, def­i­nite­ly.

Hey, look! It’s anoth­er guy! You’re off the hook, Par­nell. Tim Myers wrote “Wax­ing Moon” and it was about. Um. Hmmm. That isn’t com­ing back to me clear­ly, either. Wait–wax. Yes, wax was impor­tant. Now I remem­ber the sto­ry. It was, once again, one of those where the craft con­nec­tion was a seri­ous stretch. The cul­prit was too obvi­ous, but my biggest objec­tion is that every woman in that piece of dreck was a worth­less waste of car­bon.

The vic­tim in Sha­ran New­man’s “Light Her Way Home” was appar­ent as soon as she was intro­duced. I was imme­di­ate­ly upset, for her and with her and at our entire race for that part of our his­to­ry. Not ratio­nal, but it was one of those very emo­tion­al days. Any­way, it’s a decent sto­ry, and it put me in mind of Kathy Lynn Emer­son­’s Susan­na, Lady Apple­ton series.

The good sto­ries are worth your time, and it’s very like­ly that you’ll have dif­fer­ent favorites than I did. Don’t count on the craft projects to jus­ti­fy buy­ing the book, though. They’re noth­ing like the pat­terns in Mon­i­ca Fer­ris’ books. If you’ve ever flipped des­per­ate­ly through mag­a­zines and library books look­ing for some­thing to keep a scout troop or Vaca­tion Bible School class busy for a few hours, you’ve seen the kinds of things they’ve includ­ed here.

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