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Mystery Writers of America Presents Blood on Their Hands (2003)

by Lawrence Block (Editor)

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Blood on Their Hands is a collection of nineteen mystery short stories, all from 2003, all by members of the Mystery Writers of America. Several of the stories are prize-winners.
The collection was edited by Lawrence Block, who is best known as the creator of detective Matt Scudder. Block provides a short preface, “It All Started with Poe,” that is a parody of introductions. Block reminds us that the short story is the original mystery form. Edgar Allan Poe’s stories “The Murders on the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter” created the genre, and most of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales were short stories. For those of us with a desire for instant gratification, short stories offer a nice narrative conclusion each time we sit down to read.
The book is titled Blood on Their Hands because the loose premise uniting the stories is that ordinary people who are pushed hard enough can become bloodthirsty. Of course, if your characters are going to commit ultraviolence, you as a writer have a problem developing sympathy for them in your audience. The writers of Blood on Their Hands have various strategies to cope with the sympathy problem. In some of the stories the bloody conclusion is only feinted at. In others, the authors seem willing to sacrifice our sympathy for poetic justice.
G. Miki Hayden’s story “The Maids” won the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America to the best short story of the year. “The Maids” is told from the viewpoint of a Haitian slave, a woman who works as a maid in the house of her French masters. The narrator helps the Voodoo chieftains start a domestic black rebellion, the beginning of the end of French rule on the island.
“Red Meat,” by Elaine Viets, was nominated for the Agatha Prize given by Malice Domestic, another mystery writers’ group. “Red Meat” is a grimly humorous story about a sixtyish Florida retiree whose wife gives him for his birthday a beautiful young woman as his personal trainer. Flattered and delighted at first, he eventually finds himself driven so hard he wishes his trainer were dead.
Probably the best story in the collection is one by Rhys Bowen called “Doppelganger.” This story is set in pre-World War II Germany and follows two engineering students who are just about to graduate and enter the war effort. The two are very much alike in background, interests, and even looks. The problem is that one of them has a Jewish father, and that’s going to be more of an obstacle for him than he suspects. “Doppelganger” won not only the Agatha Award but also the Anthony Award, given by the society named after mystery and science fiction writer Anthony Boucher.
Blood on Their Hands has a pleasant variety in settings and points of view. If you like bedtime reading that may make you dream in visceral color, I think you’ll like it. ( )
  michaelm42071 | Sep 3, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425190358, Hardcover)

What could drive you over the edge?

Maybe if you or someone you love had been victimized? Or if your spouse was having an affair? Or your life just wasn't turning out the way you always dreamed it would?

You want justice. You want to make things right. But you're out of luck. You have to live with it. There just aren't any options.

Or are there?

In this Mystery Writers of America anthology, New York Times bestselling author Lawrence Block has collected nineteen suspense stories exploring such scenarios, by some of mystery's most popular authors...

Brendan DuBois € Noreen Ayres € Shelly Costa € Tom Savage € Tracy Knight € Aileen Schumacher € Elaine Viets € G. Miki Hayden € Elaine Togneri € Henry Sleasar € William E. Chambers € Stefanie Matteson € Charlotte Hinger € Dan Crawford € Rhys Bowen € Mat Coward € Marcia Talley € Elizabeth Foxwell € Jeremiah Healy

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:59 -0400)

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"In this Mystery Writers of America anthology, New York Times bestselling author Lawrence Block has collected nineteen suspenseful short stories that reveal what people will do when they are pushed to the limit - and see no way out."--BOOK JACKET.

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