The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense Edited by Judy Penz Sheluk: Review/Giveaway

Jul 6, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kathleen Costa
& Judy Penz Sheluk

This week we have a review of The Best Laid Plans Edited by Judy Penz Sheluk and a fun guest post by Judy about how the anthology came together. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense Edited by Judy Penz Sheluk

Are you a fan of assortments? Do you like packages of treats with its variety of flavors, styles, or types? Popsicles? Cookies? Donuts? Ok, food seems to be my most popular way to pick up assortments. It’s such a great way to try something new. But, how about books or short stories? I personally love getting the collection sets that include work from various authors, new-to-me especially. Case in point: The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense.

The Best Laid Plans earns a 21-Star Salute…Clever, Very Entertaining!

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” but when it comes to these twenty-one short cozies, it could mean failure, mayhem, or murder! These authors, some I know and some are new, have each penned an entertaining short story that illustrates one can plan and plan and plan some more, look at all the various options, have confidence in success, but something will still go wrong…often terribly wrong! mystery

Brilliant! I loved the stories by favorite authors Judy Penz Sheluk, Lesley A. Diehl, and Edith Maxwell…always the clever twist. But, the fun part was being introduced to work by authors about which I knew little: KM Rockwood, Peggy Rothschild, and Rosemary McCracken provided a few jaw-dropping moments and very intriguing plots penned by Edward Lodi, P.A. De Voe, and LD Masterson. What other stories have they written?

All in all, this collection had clever and engaging stories with different styles, different settings, different murderous intentions along with well-defined characters and dialogue that illustrated well the tone, emotions, and different personalities. Some stories were written in first-person and others put the reader eavesdropping in on the drama, and the vivid descriptions and clever storylines are lots of fun. From stalkers to exes to ones looking for a big score, from vengeance to jealousy to everyday greed, from justice to just desserts to fortuitous accidents, from an “I get it” to “I didn’t see that coming” I was totally engaged! A big “twenty-one” thumbs up!

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.

The Story Behind The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense
by Judy Penz Sheluk

From the moment I set up Superior Shores Press in February 2018, I knew I wanted to publish a multi-author anthology of short crime fiction. Part of it was to recreate in some small way the buzz of excitement I’d felt with my first publication credits in crime fiction in November 2014 (The Whole She-Bang 2 and World Enough and Crime).

mystery author

Judy Penz Sheluk

I’d also had some experience with the vetting process, having been the intake coordinator for Passport to Murder, the anthology for Bouchercon Toronto 2017, and my background as a magazine editor, most recently for New England Antiques Journal 2007-2018, would also come in handy when it came to editing and compiling the collection. And so, in October 2018, after calculating the financial risks and taking several deep breaths, I sent out the call for submissions and spent a sleepless night worrying: What if no one responded the call?

I need not have worried. In all, seventy-two submissions were received. Countries represented included the U.S., Canada, England, Norway, Italy, Australia, and Argentina. Cutting down from seventy-two to thirty-five wasn’t that difficult. Some didn’t fit the theme or the assigned word count. Some had really graphic violence or an excess of bad language and some had no bite. I wanted the book to be “PG” without being wimpy.

But the rest…I loved all thirty-five stories. Cutting fifteen stories, that was tough. I created an Excel spreadsheet, entered in the word counts and basic premise, and went to work. I knew I wanted about 75,000 words and twenty-one stories in all, which meant twenty-one stories at 1,500 words or twenty-one stories at 5,000 words wouldn’t work. Additionally, a good anthology has a mix of quick reads (1,500 words), longer reads (5,000 words), and everything in between. If I could only select four “long stories” and there were six, I had to cut two. There were a couple of stories that I really went back and forth on a few times.

The other consideration is topic. I remember reading an anthology a while back that had twelve stories and two had werewolves. That, to my mind, was one too many werewolves, and it ruined the entire collection for me.

Finally, theme. There is nothing worse than reading a theme-based collection and coming upon a story that just-doesn’t fit. No matter how good the story, if it didn’t fit the theme, it couldn’t be included. But still, it wasn’t easy to come down to twenty, and I know several really great stories were rejected simply because of word count or duplication of subject matter.

Whether it’s at a subway station in Norway, a ski resort in Vermont, a McMansion in the suburbs, or a trendy art gallery in Toronto, the twenty-one authors represented in this superb collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “the best laid plans” in their own inimitable style. And like many best laid plans, they come with no guarantees.

Stories by Tom Barlow, Susan Daly, Lisa de Nikolits, P.A. De Voe, Peter DiChellis, Lesley A. Diehl, Mary Dutta, C.C. Guthrie, William Kamowski, V.S. Kemanis, Lisa Lieberman, Edward Lodi, Rosemary McCracken, LD Masterson, Edith Maxwell, Judy Penz Sheluk, KM Rockwood, Peggy Rothschild, Johanna Beate Stumpf, Vicki Weisfeld, and Chris Wheatley.

The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense
is available on Kindle and in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Chapters.Indigo.

To enter to win an ebook copy of The Best Laid Plans, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “best,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 13, 2019. U.S. residents only for the print copy. If entering via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors.

You can use this link to purchase the book from Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.



  1. Sounds like a great group of authors. Count me in!

    • Good luck Glen~

  2. I’m so pleased to have a story in this anthology among such accomplished authors.

    “Frozen Daiquiris” was a fun story to write.

    Thanks for the review.

    It reflects the diversity of the stories.

  3. Hats off to Judy Penz Sheluk for creating this opportunity for authors! She was also open to considering previously published stories, and opportunities to showcase stories that have already been in print are golden. It’s great to be sharing space with such a talented group of writers.

  4. Ah, story of my life . . . and yet things always work out. 😉

  5. Thanks for the buzz, Kathleen. I’m so pleased to be part of this collection.

  6. Thank you for reading and reviewing The Best Laid Plans, Kathleen. We’re so glad you enjoyed it!

  7. I really enjoy reading anthologies. Sounds like a great collection of stories.

  8. I’m truly delighted and honoured to be included in this anthology! I wrote Fire Drill when the call for submissions came up and I was just delighted to make the cut!

    Thank you so much for this fab review and thanks again to Judy, for so much hard work and bringing this collection together!

    I really love the cover so much too!

  9. I’ve been looking forward to reading these stories for a while. TIt sounds like a great collection!

  10. I must say that this is an exceptional short story anthology and I am very happy to be included in it among so many excellent writers. This book is the perfect example of how diverse stories can be while at the same time being united under a common theme.

  11. Thank you for the review! I’m proud to be included in the anthology, and a big fan of all the stories in it.

  12. We have a winner!


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