by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this post on how to win either a print or ebook copy of the book, along with details on how to purchase a copy.
Beauty is only skin-deep, and that is never more apparent than in this impressive collection of short stories by the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime. This biannual anthology takes readers on a tour that reveals the darkness hiding under the gorgeous veneer of Southern California, where illusions and play-acting are a way of life.
In the most unusual tale of this collection, Susan Kosar-Beery’s “Toxic, In the Year Twenty-One Twelve,” places a post-dystopian twist on noir after California endures the trifecta of earthquake, fire, and plague. A more traditional, hard-drinking private investigator appears in Bengte Evenson’s “Phyllis Barlow, P.I.” … although this female detective discovers that she’s as susceptible to getting played as any man.
Gigi Pandian’s “Tempest in a Teapot” features a unique magician-character tangent to the author’s series and contains all her trademark originality and humor. Readers may think that they’re getting a more traditional cozy tale in Julie G. Beers’ “Ida & Aggie,” but when the serial-killing “vampiric” deaths come near the owners of the Sit & Stitch knitting store, their reaction is anything but expected. Another cozy trope is hilariously upended in Cyndra Gernet’s “Good Grief,” as her geriatric professional mourners are like no-one you’ve ever met: with the motto, “You die, we cry,” these ladies deserve a series all their own.
Two historical show-business tales can be found in Julie Brayton’s “Murder at the Castle Theater” and Andrew Jetarski’s “One Decent Shot.” Brayton’s 1952 tale features a “spunky” female reporter whose encounter with a twenty-five-year-old murder mystery could result in the story of her career, while Jetarski’s professional madam meets an ingénue who forces the cynical woman to make a fateful choice.
Sarah M. Chen showcases just how fast the real housewives of Laurel Canyon can turn on their own in her “Canyon Ladies.” Another pampered wife is revealed to have justification for her helicopter-mom paranoia in Arthur Coburn’s “Backswing.”
As seen in L.H. Dillman’s, “Thicker than Water,” the lifestyles of the rich and famous definitely have a dark side. The author provides a glimpse of Southern Californian living from another perspective, as a family maid encounters a murder that reveals the power of family loyalty.
Wendall Thomas’s C-list entertainment news reporter in “Loser Friend” discovers the downside of being famous-adjacent when one of her clients is murdered. The greatest crime for this part-time house-sitter/errand girl is allowing her infamy to overshadow the fame of her clients.
The commercialism of the art world gets its own showcase in Jude McGee’s “The Artist Must Die,” in which a twin’s scheme to make her own artwork a sensation may result in a plan that’s all too real.
For the biggest twist of all, Michael Kelly’s “Flight Risk” starts with the darkest of trafficking and ends with a brilliantly satisfying vindication.
If the intention of this anthology was to introduce promising authors to new audiences, then the editors have succeeded. Dillman’s maid, Gernet’s professional grievers, Pandian’s magician, and Brayton’s reporter are all characters that could carry their own series. Many others definitely earn their own standalone novels.
This is that rare anthology in which the writing shines in every single story, as brevity requires that every sentence and every character must prove vital to the tale. The authors excel at leading readers down a path that pivots unexpectedly for satisfying conclusions. Readers should be warned against skimming through any of these stories, as they will find themselves having to reread them all to catch every twist of phrase and deftly hidden clue. This collection is always fun and witty, and even the darkest of tales proves to be as entertaining as it’s compelling.
To enter to win a copy of Ladies Night, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Ladies,” or comment on this article and be sure to include if you want to win an ebook or print copy. A winner will be chosen July 11, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Click on this link to purchase this book: