Faye Kellerman's novels of crime and psychological turmoil have earned a permanent spot on my reading shelves, albeit I've noticed a general slide towards a flat, repetitive style in the last few novels. But now she is taking a slightly different turn with this collection of short stories from throughout her career.
Several of her stories feature her most popular characters, those of Peter Decker, and his wife, Rina Lazarus. Others feature historical figures, characters on the edge, and all sorts of human nature. There isn't any sort of linking theme here, just that they are stories by Kellerman, and several either co-written with or inspired by her children or husband. And as usual with short story collections, several are downright creepy, a few are very good, and one or two fall short of the mark.
The Garden of Eden
This one, and the next three, are stories that feature the Deckers, a married, Orthodox Jewish couple that are very real, and good to read about. In this one, Rina and Peter have a problem at home when Rina's indoor gardening starts to get out of hand. Mixed in with this is the death of an elderly friend that has hints of foul-play and a stash of money that is missing. How both problems are resolved is done with Kellerman's deft hand at suspense.
A dead body turns up in a vacant home, and it's up to Decker and his officers to puzzle out the how and why. It's a sordid little tale of a man who gets caught with his pants down and the girlfriend is getting a little too annoying. While it's a simplistic tale, I was glad to see more of the policemen that Decker gets to work with.
This one features Decker's daughter, Cindy, who is a chip off the old block when it comes to solving crimes. This time, the murder is particularly close when one of Cindy's instructors at the police academy is gunned down in front of witnesses. But the question is who and why. Kellerman kept this one from getting too stale by tucking in a twist or two, and it's a good, tight story, perfect for your coffee break.
A Woman of Mystery
This is one of the saddest stories that I've read in a long time. Rina has an encounter with a young, troubled woman without a name or past, and it's a tale that will make all of us wonder how far we should visit the sins of the past onto the future.
For every woman who has been the victim of an abusive relationship, this one is sweet, sweet revenge. While I wouldn't recommend being this drastic, it's certainly soul-satisfying.
Mummy and Jack
Cowritten with her son, Jesse, Kellerman takes on the old Jack the Ripper story, but this time with a twist or two that makes it unique. And actually, it's not too bad.
Told in first person, this is a tale to make your blood run cold at a teenage girl who's bored with her life, and decides to make mischief. The body count rises, the sins are unthinkable, and it's one of those stories that makes you wish you didn't read it. Not that it's bad, it's just that horrifying.
A female private eye takes on a case that looks simple enough -- find a cleaning woman who has vanished over several days, and the employer is concerned. There's always a deeper motive, of course, and this one turns into a question of poverty and morality over a diamond ring.
Tendrils of Love
If this tale doesn't turn you off of internet chat rooms, nothing will. There's all sorts of reasons for a woman to turn up dead in a quiet backwater in Missouri. How it all fits together is the appeal of this one.
We all know them. The neighbor with the dog. The monsterous fanged horror of both the canine and human species that has turned your little slice of paradise into an absolute hell. But as with all Kellerman stories this one has a twist.
The Back Page
It's a cute story on an old urban legend, but I found it to be a little too much. Set in a newspaper, it's the story about a reporter who always seems to be first on the spot.
Mr. Barton's Head Case
It's a tale of true love, between a man and his car. This is one of those stories that makes me wish that Kellerman used more humor in her full length novels, as when she does it, she is very good at it indeed. This one was also based on one of the more interesting bits of lore out of the Bible, updated for the modern age.
More humor here about a rabbi who is kidnapped during Purim in a clash of corporate giants. It's a cute tale, and it made me chuckle a bit.
There isn't any crime in this one, just a cozy tale of elderly women and a youngster gathered together for a family ritual of playing Monopoly.
The Luck of the Draw
Kellerman co-wrote this with her daughters for an anthology. It's an ok story, but it's such a painfully 'goody-goody' tale that I had a hard time taking it seriously.
This one is a recounting of an actual event in Kellerman's life involving her mother and her children. Just a few pages long, it's still a treat.
The Summer of My Womanhood
This one is a story about Kellerman herself, working in the family business. I found it to particularly poignant and wonderful to read. It made wading through all of the other stories worth it to get to this point.
Each story comes with an introduction, where Kellerman talks about what influenced her to write the story, and some of the underlaying themes and ideas. It's a nice touch, and it helps to understand where a writer can get their ideas and topics in both fiction and non-fiction. As a collection showcasing Kellerman's talent, it's not bad, but I would only suggest it to those who are already fans of her work, and it wouldn't make that good of an introduction to her work. For that, I would recommend her earlier Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus novels.
Overall, about four stars. While mystery fans will enjoy it the most, the final stories in the collection are accessable to anyone and are very heartfelt.