Odd Partners, edited by Anne Perry
Never has murder and the telling of it been so delightful! In this new collection of short fiction, editor Anne Perry has brought together twenty established and rising stars of the literary murder business, each with a story revolving around the theme of “odd partners.” These include a voice in the head of an inspector, a gray wolf and a fly fisherman, honey bees that avenge the death of their keeper, and airplane passengers who help a fellow passenger discover who he is. Atkins, Deaver, Krueger, Perry, Todd, and Winspear join others in creating new, never-before-published short stories that further reveal their imagination and skill.
Caroline and Charles Todd, the mother and son writers, return to London in 1920 for “Blood Money.” Inspector Ian Rutledge, still haunted by World War I events and “Hamish MacLeod, the voice he’d carried in his head since the Battle of the Somme,” is stopped by a recent war widow who cannot sleep because a neighbor’s cat is up a tree. This seemingly trite event leads to the discovery of a murder and the unraveling of the sad reason that caused it, all thanks to that roving cat.
Anne Perry’s “Reconciliation” propels us into a sapper’s tunnel underneath the British and German lines in the Great War. Sergeant Jack Barrick is searching for a young soldier who is bullied, frightened, and in possession of a poisonous gas canister which he intends to set off near the German lines to prove his courage. Jack encounters Karl, a German, in the tunnels and the two veterans, recognizing the mutual danger, pursue Private Richard. They realize they have to “believe in something…At least that you are not alone. Comradeship. A light that you’ve seen somewhere, even if it’s gone out now. Remember where it was.”
Jeffery Deaver is famous for the twists, turns, and reversals revealed in his carefully-plotted novels. “Security” reveals two very careful men who appear to be plotting the assassination of the leading presidential candidate. We watch through the eyes of his small secret service detail as well as those of a local security officer; she is a young single mother with an intuitive grasp of potential problem areas and sees particulars that escape the more experienced officers. It is all very logical police work until it isn’t, and the twists and reversals gyrate into play. This is a story that could so easily be true, especially in the present circumstances.
Robert Dugoni spins a sadly sweet story in “The Last Game,” but its direction is too obvious after a few paragraphs to have the staying power of the other more sophisticated stories in this anthology. This is a surprising low point for the critically acclaimed writer of the Tracy Crosswhite series.
Two stories stand out in their contrasts and similarities: “A Cold Spell” by Mark Thielman, which takes place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and “Oglethorpe’s Camera” by Claire Otalda, which takes place in a modern city. Witches and coveting cow pastures infect the first while desiring the internet success of another clouds the second. Although seemingly disparate, these stories both center on the dangers that follow when the “opinion maker” instills a certain belief in a non-discerning populace. Although each is set in a widely different time frame, each focuses on greed and jealousy. Both are stark reminders that facts must be gathered before a rush to judgement. Each seems a fable for our time.
Perry notes in her introduction, “The odd relationship can lead to anything—or nothing at all. But the heart of a story is the journey toward understanding of others, and, most of all, yourself.” This anthology fills that promise completely.