Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Inherit the Dead edited by Jonathan Santlofer (2013)

Take twenty of the best mystery writers around and set them to write a thriller and the result will be pure gold, right?


And somehow wrong.

Inherit the Dead came about because best-selling author Linda Fairstein wanted to draw attention to an organization called Safe Horizon, of which she is a board member.  Safe Horizon is an organization that provides support to victims of crime and abuse and is the largest provider of domestic violence service in America.  "Safe Horizon envisions a society free of family and community violence and leads the way by empowering victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking to move from crisis to confidence."  A good cause, a good organization.  Check them out at

Jonathan Santlofer agreed to put the book together and arranged for nineteen other writers to contribute a chapter apiece. The lineup in order of appearance is

  • Jonathon Santlofer
  • Stephen L. Carter
  • Marcia Clark
  • Heather Graham
  • Charlaine Harris
  • Sarah Weinman
  • Bryan Gruley
  • Alafair Burke
  • John Connolly
  • James Grady
  • Ken Bruen
  • Lisa Unger
  • S. J. Rozan
  • Dana Stabenow
  • Val McDermid
  • Mary Higgins Clark
  • C. J. Box
  • Max Allan Collins (who somehow manages to get his name misspelled twice on the cover jacket!)
  • Mark Billingham
  • Lawrence Block
Lee Child provides the introduction, while Linda Fairstein says a few words about Safe Horizon.

A solid lineup of good writers and good people.

Pericles (call him Perry; only his mother is allowed  to call him Pericles) Christo is an ex-cop, now P.I., who was drummed out of the force in a political cover-up that cost him his job, his family, and his reputation.  His hard scrabble life now affords little chance to turn down a case, so when he gets a call from uber-wealthy Julia Drusilla late at night, he comes calling.  Julia wants him to locate her estranged daughter Angel who has been missing for two weeks.  Julia will be twenty-one in a few days and is due to inherit half of a sizable trust on her birthday if -- and only if -- she signs for the money on her exact birthday.

Perry agrees and the case takes him to Angel's alcoholic, drug-infused gay father, then to her supposed best friend, and from there to her violent grease-monkey boyfriend and to her politically connected lover.  Two things become clear to him:  everybody he has talked to, including his client, is lying, and Angel is a beautiful siren, able to entrance every man she meets.  In his mind, Angel becomes a proxy for his own fifteen-year-old daughter whom he feels he has let down.  Perry becomes obsessed with finding and saving Angel.

On the way to the novel's violent conclusion, we are treated to Perry's angst, his guilt for losing his family, and his anger at having lost his job with the police department.

Inherit the Dead is a fast and pretty seamless read, satisfying on many levels. Each section rings true -- a tribute to the writers involved.  And yet...

Remember Raymond Chandler?  A great writer with great books..and a tendency to leave plot holes and unfinished threads in his novels -- something you don't really notice while reading because the narrative and the writer are so compelling.  On reflection, there are several things that concern me, several things that need explanation, and several things that fit into the novel only because of plot convenience.  I won't detail them here.  Read the book yourself; you may not find them as glaring in your own rearview mirror.

The problem is not with any of the writers.  The book, as I said is a fast and enjoyable read and I certainly can recommend it.  Perhaps the problem lies in the process itself.  I don't know.  Certainly the book and the cause are worth your money.  You also may want to consider donating some money directly to Safe Horizon.

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