Short stories in 'The Rich and The Dead' are worthy

"Mystery Writers of America presents The Rich and The Dead" edited by Nelson DeMille; 978-0-446-55587-6; 384 pages; $24.99; 2011; Hardcover; Mystery Anthology; Grand Central Publishing.

Normally, a collection of short stories will turn most people away from reading them, unless they are exceptionally well done.

"The Rich and The Dead" is one of those anthologies that is a collection chosen from 200 submissions made by members of the Mystery Writers of America organization. Qualifications are strictly adhered to for membership, and those who are granted access to this esteemed society must demonstrate an ability to write exciting mysteries.

This collection of tales is edited by Nelson DeMille, who made the final selection of stories that would be included. His ability is beyond question, since he had been president of the organization 35 years ago and has written 14 published novels in his own right.

Fittingly, one of his short stories leads off the book. "Death Benefits" is extremely well-written, carrying with it a twisted ending. It seems this story sets the tone for the rest of the book, and readers will find themselves cavorting around with the rich or those who had been rich and are on the verge of losing what was left of their fortunes.

What is particularly nice is you can read one story and set aside the rest to enjoy another time. Each section is completely different from the others and has some surprises. If you have read some of the classic mystery stories from authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, you will not be disappointed in this collection. Yearly, the organization recognizes outstanding contributions to mystery writing with the presentation of an Edgar!

When we read some of today's genre of authors, they often use terse language which seems to be the norm rather than the exception. With that caveat in mind, some of the stories are definitely adult, others are not. If you feel squeamish about some scenarios, you can easily pass over them and go to the next. That is what I like about anthologies!

The submissions came from Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Harley Jane Kozak, and S. J. Rozen to name a few. At any given time, you will find one of these authors on the best seller lists for their mystery novels.

Confrontation is the byword in most of these stories. Death is a strange theme, but once you start reading, it is very compelling to see who shall live and who shall die. Fresh and exciting describe most of the stories, but there are a couple which leave you wondering why they were included.

Overall, this is a book you can take on a trip or pick up and put down at your leisure. DeMille has selected an unusual collection of macabre tales of real people, who just happen to either kill or be killed. This book is highly recommended and is a four-star read.

Publishers Weekly

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Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who is published in local newspapers and national book review lists. He is a member of the faculty of Mohave Community College in Kingman. Visit Clark Isaacs at http://clarkisaacs.ning.com.