Murderous Schemes


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About the Author

Donald E. Westlake received the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for his novel God Save the Mark and in 1993 won their Grandmaster Award for lifetime achievement. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay for The Grifters. J. Madison Davis is Professor of Journalism in the Professional Writing Program at the University of Oklahoma and is current president of the International Association of Crime Writers. He is the author of The Murder of Frau Schutz, which was nominated for the Edgar Award.


Editors Westlake and Davis arrange this collection around eight standard plot conventions, such as the locked room and the armchair detective, providing four stories for each by authors both old and new. They underscore differences not only between writers but also between American and British mystery fiction. Complete with short biographies.

"What is this drug anyway?" Westlake asks about the timeless attraction of detective stories. This anthology answers by breaking the genre into eight types, each illustrated by four splendid examples. In subgenres such as Locked Rooms, Armchair Detectives and Brilliant Schemes Gone Wrong, Westlake showcases outstanding writers of the last 100 years. In "The Blue Geranium," Agatha Christie's Miss Marple solves a murder with only the clues of dinner conversation. Ellery Queen is represented, as is Edward D. Hoch, the leading current contributor to Queen's namesake magazine. In Hoch's "The Leopold Locked Room," police captain Leopold is found in a closed room with his murdered ex-wife. Ballistics results show that Leopold's gun fired the fatal shot, but Leopold and readers know he's not the killer. Every bit of the solution is cleverly foreshadowed. "Someday I'll Plant More Walnut Trees" initially seems to be a predictable tract on spousal abuse, but the author is Lawrence Block, who turns the reader's expectations inside out with two clever twists. Other contributors include Raymond Chandler, Shirley Jackson, Chester Himes and Roald Dahl. Westlake provides sensible analyses, even if he does sound a bit guilty for thinking too much about the pure pleasure of it all. (Jan.)

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