Review

Mystery Writers of America Presents the Rich and the Dead

by Nelson DeMille

The premise of the original short story anthology THE RICH AND
THE DEAD, commissioned by the venerable Mystery Writers of America
organization, is a simple one: each story deals with a crime
occasioned and/or motivated by great wealth --- either keeping it
or acquiring it. The 20 stories selected by editor Nelson DeMille
in turn demonstrate a collective wealth of talent and imagination,
one that transcends the mystery genre. DeMille, possibly by
accident but probably by design, balanced his selections almost
equally by authors who are known to the reading public and those
who should and will be. The result is a volume full of surprises,
both expected and unexpected.

It is wonderfully and joyously difficult to pick one story in
THE RICH AND THE DEAD over another. The best one? It's close, but I
would have to give the nod to "The Pirate of Palm Beach" by Ted
Bell. This tale of a gossip columnist crossing swords with a rakish
and wealthy con man features unforgettable characters,
laugh-out-loud dialogue, and more twists than you would expect in
less than 30 pages. It has "Best Short Story" written all over
it.

As will occur with the best of anthologies, my favorite keeps
changing, but the nod would have to go to "Bling, Bling" by David
DeLee, who, despite being a native New Yorker and living in New
Hampshire, somehow captures my hometown of Columbus, Ohio,
perfectly in this story about a wealthy but streetwise rapper who
may be at the end of his game.

Every story has something to recommend it. Harley Jane Kozak's
"Lamborghini Mommy" points up the painful differences between the
rich and the super-rich. The story is quite wonderfully told
through the voice of a divorced mom who --- horrors! --- has to
work and must contend with a false murder rap on top of her fall
from grace. The closing sentence of the story, by the way, is one
of the best I have read in a long time. The venerable David Morrell
is here as well with "The Controller," an instructive tale that
teaches, among other things, the difference between a "bodyguard"
and a "protective agent." It also features an interesting mystery,
one with layers to it, wrapped in the trappings of a thriller.

Of course, when one thinks of a rich criminal these days, Bernie
Madoff immediately comes to mind, and Twist Phelan comes up with an
extremely well-done variation on that theme with "Happiness," an
in-the-room look at what occurs as a family gathers one last time,
among the spoils of ill-gotten gain, before their patriarch reports
to prison. The author isn't the only twist associated with the
story, as various members of the household jockey for positions
while U.S. Marshals look on very carefully.

Not all of the stories deal with rich crooks, however, or at
least entirely so. Jonathan Santlofer is represented with "Richie
and the Rich Bitch," in which the Richie of the tale is a thief for
hire who gets ripped off after doing an art heist and decides to do
some ripping back. "Richie," which is dark, gritty and has a
surprise ending, reminds me of a celluloid feature that Alfred
Hitchcock would have loved to direct.

I could keep going. Peter Blauner makes a most welcome return
with "Thank God for Charlie," about a fading Hollywood actress who
uses and is used. Carolyn Mullen's "Poetic Justice" is a very
literary historical tale about a wealthy and abusive factory owner
who gets his comeuppance, as does the reader. And I haven't even
talked about the stories by Lee Child, Michael Connelly (a Harry
Bosch tale, no less!), S. J. Rozan, Nelson DeMille, and a host of
others whom I feel badly about failing to mention by name and
deserve to be. What higher praise for THE RICH AND THE DEAD can I
give than to tell you that you will be richer for having read
it?

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 16, 2011

Mystery Writers of America Presents the Rich and the Dead
by Nelson DeMille

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2011
  • Genres: Anthology, Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446555878
  • ISBN-13: 9780446555876