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Book Author: Brad Meltzer

THE MYSTERY BOX edited by Brad Meltzer: Book Review

I’m usually not a huge fan of short series, generally finding them less satisfying than novels.    The exception to this is the Sherlock Holmes canon of stories, which I think are greatly superior to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s full-length books.  So I picked up The Mystery Box not expecting to be overwhelmed by the contents.  But I was wrong, very wrong.

Several of the authors were familiar to me (Jan Burke, Laura Lippman, Joseph Finder), while others were  new to me (C. E. Lawrence, Mary Anne Kelly).  But each story was a gem, perfectly written and totally satisfying.

The unifying theme of the collection is given away in the title–no mystery there.  Every story had to contain a mystery box.  What the box contained was obviously up to each author.

I’ll start with Jan Buke’s “The Amiable Miss Edith Montague,” the first story in the collection.  The narrator’s great-aunt, Miss Edith Montague, has been murdered.  Very wealthy and popular with all the people in the town, she raised the narrator after the death of his parents.  She was so generous with her time and money that no one seems to have benefited by her death…except for the person whose secret lay in the box and who killed to protect it.

Then there’s “Heirloom” by Joseph Finder.  An ordinary middle-aged couple is invited to the home of their new neighbors, a young and wealthy couple who bought the house next door to them on Nantucket.  No sooner does the older couple arrive for a barbecue than the husband starts inserting sly remarks into the conversation about the many problems the house has and why it took so long for it to be sold.  And no, the heirloom in the title refers not to jewels or valuable manuscripts but to tomatoes!  You’ll have to read the story to find out why.

The final story of the twenty-one is probably the funniest short story I’ve ever read.  “Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line (annotated)” by Karin Slaughter is so clever, so unexpected, so wild…I’m stumped for how to describe it.  I’ll simply say that it’s a story about an adjudicator for a records-setting book trying to re-establish herself as reliable after an episode she refers to only as “the domino debacle.”

Remmy Rothstein is attempting to set a new world record for the Longest Tongue in the World (man)–I kid you not.  The story’s characters include Mindy Patel, the adjudicator; Remmy Rothstein, aka the Cajun Jew, trying to get into the world book of records; his one-legged albino African-American half-brother, Buell Rabinowitz; and their incredibly foul-mouthed mother, Rebekkah.  Oh yes, and the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, is a “character” essential to the story.  And about the mystery box in this story?  Read it and cringe.

I’ve described only three stories in The Mystery Box, leaving you to discover the other eighteen on your own.  Brad Meltzer did a fabulous job in bringing this group of authors together for our reading pleasure.  In addition to enjoying the contents of this collection, an added plus is discovering new authors to add to our reading lists.  I know I’ve added to mine.

You can read more about Brad Meltzer at this web page.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.