JoAnna Spring's Reviews > Mystery Writers of America Presents Death Do Us Part: New Stories about Love, Lust, and Murder

Mystery Writers of America Presents Death Do Us Part by Harlan Coben
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Nov 26, 09

bookshelves: fiction
Read in November, 2009

Crazy how the removal of "until" changes the entire meaning of that little vow. It turns a sweet sentiment into a vengeful, angry act.

Death do us Part is a collection of 19 short stories on "love, lust and murder" - some sweet, some vengeful. The best stories in the book deal with honest, believable emotion and the worst are lazy, unimaginative cliches. Two stories, including "Wifey," a version of "The Tell-Tale Heart" with a dog (by R.L. Stine of Scholastic Goosebumps fame), involved unpredictably insane dudes that I don't want to talk about lest they show up in my dreams with their freakish serial killer creepiness.

Most of the stories, however, revolve around typical fiction folk. All the great wars are covered as you would expect them to be:

* The young slave girl during the Civil War who has a showdown with her Master, an abusive, idiotic hick.
* The devoted World War I home-front wife who is lost without her husband (spoiler...he dies, but she gets a kitten, so it's all better. Seriously. It's a bad story and now you don't have to read it).
* The old vet of the Greatest Generation avenging his wife's death by a drunk driver.

Continuing on with the chiches, is an Italian immigrant in NY/NJ - it doesn't matter - who has his wife's lover killed by the mob. Inventive, no? Another story, told in IM transcripts, covers cyber love. And "Heat Lightening" is the story of a poor young farmer on droughted land with a slowly-dying wife. He takes a class a community college and has an affair with his teacher, falling in love over Vonnegut. Uh...vomit.

There are a few good, unique stories, starting with the first one "Queeny" by Ridley Pearson. In eight pages the story zips through 875 days in the life of a man whose wife is missing and presumed murdered. The husband narrates the story of the search, trial and eventual conclusion with honest emotion and carefully chosen words. No space is wasted and the story is a treat.

"The Masseuse" is an engaging story by Tim Wohlforth about an unusual arrangement between a man and his masseuse. "Safe Enough" by Lee Child is an inoffensive tale of a blue collar city guy and his Whole Foods-loving suburban chick. Their relationship starts with intrigue and contentment but quickly sours when they can't overcome their differences. She finds him to be boring: "He didn't know anything. And his family was a pack of wild animals." He can no longer tolerate her snobbish nature: "So smug, so superior. She didn't like baseball. And she said that even if she did she wouldn't root for the Yankees. They just bought everything. Like she didn't?" Murder and mayhem commence.

"A Few Small Repairs" by Jeff Abbott is my favorite story in the book. Frank is a former drug addict whose father has lung cancer. As they work to repair their relationship in a hospital with "the reek of the old man dying," Daddy asks Frank for a radical favor. The compelling 16 page story revolves around Frank's decision related to Daddy's request. Frank is a well-considered character which quite a bit of self-awareness, which makes this man vs. himself tale a good read.

Outside of these three stories, however, there is a lot of fluff. It is interesting to see how 19 different writers take the same assignment and end up with entirely different products, but, as with most things, the result is lots of crap with just a few gems.
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