Review: Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations
Edited by Paula Guran
Published March 19, 2013
I love short story anthologies, especially the kind that provide a sampling from several authors. I know going in that there are going to be some stinkers, but usually there are at least a few good ones, and if I’m lucky, there will be a new author to pick up. And the topic matter makes for great stories.
Weird Detectives has a lot of heavy-hitters. This guarantees good solid reads that won’t make you go “Oh God I spent $16.99 on this book, and now I can’t afford lunch, and it sucks!” Unfortunately, most of the things by the people we know best are reprints. In fact, everything in here is a reprint, but since some of the authors aren’t so well-known some of the stories were new to me. The only really new content is case summary. Each chapter has a case summary, if you will, outlining the who and the what of the crime.
For the authors you know, nothing really deviates from the expected. Neil Gaiman and Patricia Briggs are impressive as always. I prefer Jim Butcher’s novels to his short stories, but “Love Hurts” is decent read. Reprint or not it is a very good selection of stories. BUT, some of them are very old.
I’ve picked a few stories to highlight, and they’re spoiler free!
“Fox Tails” by Richard Parks surprised me. I’d seen his Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter, and decided to pass on that one. I’m very picky about Asian-themed lit. It’s either not very good or tends to play to stereotypes. His writing took a moment to get used to; the style was punchier than most Heian era tales. That put me off initially – it felt too anachronistic. The protagonist sounds like he’d be more at home in the Maltese Falcon than the Tale of Genji. It’s a little jarring.
As monsters went, youkai ran the gamut from “mildly annoying” to “slurp your intestines like hot noodles.” By the time you knew which sort you were dealing with, it was usually too late. (pg 371)
But a few pages into the story I was able to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the ride. I don’t know if I’ll buy his collection of Yamada stories, but I liked his writing.
“Like Part of the Family” by Jonathan Maberry piqued my interest. He’s on my to-read list. This one doesn’t involve zombies and it’s a rather predictable private eye tale, but I enjoyed his voice and style. Definitely going to pick up more of his stuff.
“Imposters” by Sarah Monette held some very interesting post-modern magic and not a little social commentary. It’s Capgras Syndrome in reverse, which in these cases happens to be very terminal. The character dynamic was very compelling, but it felt a little preachy at the end.
“Cryptic Coloration” by Elizabeth Bear was not what I expected. The first time I read it, I was surprised, and not certain if I liked it. But after a reread I’ve decided that I do. It involves virgins, monsters, and a rather improper students/teacher relationship that has severe consequences. Elizabeth Bear recently put out a short story anthology Shoggoths in Bloom. This is printed in that as well ( and where I saw it first), and it is an excellent compilation.
“Death by Dahlia” by Charlaine Harris was a pleasant reread. Yes, I know, everyone knows Charlaine Harris and I was trying to highlight some of the less famous, but still good stories. I’m hypercritical and have been editing my words, but here I’ll be blunt. I don’t like the Sookie Stackhouse series; it’s a revolving door dating service for an only somewhat likeable but not very compelling psychic waitress. There, I said it. Bring on the fire and pitchforks. But while we’re waiting, I will admit, Charlaine Harris can write (despite my feelings about that series). Dahlia is a far more interesting character than Sookie, and she’s set in the same universe. A familiar character makes a cameo. So even if you don’t like Sookie, Dahlia is worth a read.
Overall, this is a great collection worth owning. BUT, you should definitely check to see if you’ve already read/purchased these stories elsewhere. Prime Books posted a copy of the table of contents here.