This anthology is the work of the authors of The Minnesota Crime Wave, a group that includes Carl Brookins, Elizabeth Gunn, Pat Dennis, William Kent Krueger, and Joel Arnold, as well as ten other authors. The stories are all quick, easy reads; some of them have a touch of humor, and others have a touch of horror to them. Joel Arnold’s “Blue-Eyed Mary” is one of those that had shades of horror, and the reader will be surprised at what a mother’s favorite son will do.
There are bits of humor sprinkled throughout “The Horse He Rode In” by Carl Brookins. The story is told in first person by a short private eye, Sean NMI Sean, who has a girlfriend, Catherine, who is six feet tall. His quips about being short are self-deprecating, such as when he mentions how people snicker when they see the couple walking the streets of Minneapolis. “I don’t know why people in St. Paul don’t snicker. Maybe they are more polite that people in Minneapolis.”
For the most part the stories are well written and engaging. As with any anthology, there are always stories a reader likes better than others. I was enjoying “Stone Arch Bridge” by Judith Borger until the end. I liked the character of Kate and how she was so willing to help her friend, Anna who was being abused by her husband, but then the story took a turn that did not appeal to me. Other readers may not have a problem with it, though. It wasn’t a matter of poor craft, just a plotting decision that I found hard to accept.
I dare anyone to resist reading a story titled “Death by Potato Salad”, written by Jess Lourey. In it, Mrs. Bern, a well-known character from Lourey’s Murder by Month mystery series attends the All Church retreat and meets Joe, handsome with his wide white moustache and tanned wrinkles. The retreat offers several workshops, and to keep tabs on Joe, Mrs. Bern goes into the Miracles with Mayonnaise workshop as that was obviously his first choice. Mrs. Bern should have been forewarned that mischief was afoot when the workshop leader mentioned that homemade mayonnaise can be deadly if not made properly. When Hiram falls dead in the kitchen, there are suspects aplenty and a bit of surprise at the end.