"The Plot Thickens" is an anthology containing eleven stories from eleven of today's top mystery and suspense writers. To be honest, I hunted this book down solely for Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum short story, but found I enjoyed the whole thing. "The Plot Thickens" was written for a great cause, to raise money to fight illiteracy in the U.S., so you can feel good about where your money is going. Some of the stories are better than others and individual opinions will undoubtedly vary, but each tale includes a thick fog, a thick book, and a thick steak, and it's fun seeing how each author chose to work in those three elements.
1. "How Far it Could Go" by Lawrence Block is probably my least favourite story of the anthology. A man and a woman meet in a restaurant to discuss using violence to dissuade the woman's ex-husband from suing her, but how far will it go? Thin on plot, but Block creates an interesting mood. **1/2
2. "Foolproof" by Edna Buchanan tells the tale of an ancient Egyptian mummy autopsied and fingerprinted for interests' sake. But the findings bring to light a millennia's old unsolved murder and cast doubt on the only foolproof form of crime scene evidence. An intriguing and enjoyable story. ****
3. "The Man Next Door" by Mary Higgins Clark is a great, suspenseful story. When a young woman becomes the latest unwilling houseguest of her serial killer neighbour, the race is on to find her before it's too late. A well-written and exciting tale. *****
4. "Too Many Cooks" by Carol Higgins Clark introduces a struggling young actress who gets a break when she's chosen to play a cook in a steak sauce commercial. But she soon finds herself caught up in some real life drama and betrayal. A fun and entertaining story. ****
5. "Revenge and Rebellion" by Nelson & Lauren DeMille is a deliciously twisted tale. When a woman gives her treasured autobiographical manuscript to her good friend who works as a literary agent, he gets a disturbing glimpse of the world through her eyes. But the aspiring author doesn't take criticism lightly, and lost in her own delusions, there's no telling what she'll do. A very good story. ****
6. "The Last Peep" by Janet Evanovich is a Stephanie Plum story well worth tracking down. This time, bounty hunter Stephanie is on the trail of a burg resident with a penchant for peeping in windows and showing off his personal wares. But when she discovers his dead, naked body, which subsequently disappears, she's thrust into the middle of an exciting, and very amusing, mystery. A mystery that she is bound and determined to solve, with a little help from sidekick Lula and Grandma Mazur. A hilarious, well-written, and wonderful story. *****
7. "Going Under" by Linda Fairstein is a fun and original tale. An ambitious young police officer gets her big chance to make detective, as long as she's willing to let a dentist with wandering hands have his way with her once he puts her under! I really liked this story. ****
8. "Thick-Headed" by Walter Mosley is a good story, though a bit tough to follow. When a man hired to transport a car finds a dead body in the trunk of that car, he goes to his closest friend for advice. And the two of them get themselves in deeper and deeper with angry mobsters, more bodies, and criminal schemes. ***1/2
9. "Love's Cottage" by Nancy Pickard is an original and enjoyable tale. A black servant details her arrival in a strange new household with her husband, and the events that led to a terrible tragedy. ****
10. "The Road Trip" by Ann Rule is an excellent story and one of the anthology's best. When a newly divorced woman heads on a business road trip, it provides her with the welcome opportunity to get away from her maniacal, jealous, and possessive ex-husband. But instead of getting some much-needed relaxation, she finds herself in the midst of a new and infinitely worse nightmare when she becomes the next target of an infamous serial killer. A tightly plotted and thrilling story. *****
11. "Take it Away" by Donald E. Westlake rounds out the anthology nicely. When an FBI agent on a stakeout of a notorious art thief goes to get fast food for his team, a coincidental conversation with the next man in line turns out to be much, much more than it seems. A fun and intriguing tale. ****
Overall, "The Plot Thickens" is an entertaining mystery anthology that will satisfy readers. My favourite stories were the ones by Mary Higgins Clark, Janet Evanovich, and Ann Rule, but each and every one was worth reading. So give "The Plot Thickens" a try, and do your part in the fight against illiteracy.