The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Nina Reilly thrillers brings her prodigious storytelling gifts to this first-ever collection of short crime fiction. From desperate housewives to hard-boiled PIs to an appearance by Nina Reilly herself, these chilling short mysteries-many appearing in print for the very first time-set the mood and ratchet up the suspense as only Perri O'Shaughnessy can. Here are tales of love and betrayal, rage and revenge-nineteen sizzling stories that run the gamut from classic whodunits to winding thrillers to an unusual cozy that casts Gertrude Stein as an unlikely Miss Marple. And here Perri O'Shaughnessy has created some of her most sinister and compelling characters yet: a college student who devises an ingenious method for getting her sexy teacher's attention . . . a haunted ex-homicide cop who takes a long walk into his blood-shadowed past in a twisting tale of brutal murder and escalating violence . . . a model wife who surprises both herself and a bothersome furnace man when she is confronted with an unacceptable ultimatum . . . a lemon tree that plays a pivotal role in the tale of a woman who at long last asserts her independence.
Sisters Pam and Mary O'Shaughnessy use the pen name Perri O'Shaughnessy for their Nina Reilly legal thrillers as well as for this uneven debut collection of 19 short suspense stories, only one of which involves Nina Reilly and is the only "fifty-fifty collaboration" between the pair. "The Long Walk" fittingly leads, since it was published before their first novel, Motion to Suppress (1995). There are two homages: a Gertrude Stein parody, "Gertrude Stein Solves a Mystery," which is less than successful, and "His Master's Hand," which nicely mimics the style of Dostoyevski's Notes from Underground. "Dead Money" crams a novel's worth of twists and deductions into a short story. In "Tiny Angels," an FBI agent nabs a kidnapper thanks to his wife's casual but perceptive observations. Paul van Wagoner, an investigator in the Nina Reilly novels, does brilliant work in "Success Without College." Series fans may enjoy the challenge presented in the sisters' introduction, trying to figure out which sister wrote which story. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 25, 2006
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Excerpt from Sinister Shorts by Perri O'Shaughnessy
The Long Walk
At eleven the phone buzzed. Fleck had been dreaming, gazing out the window at the busy Atlanta street scene four floors below. He punched the conference button and heard the loud tinny voice of Franklin Bell calling from California. "Hey, John," Bell said. "You are a hard man to track down."
"You found me now," Fleck said. He had been relaxed; now he was uneasy. He straightened his back and the action down there snapped into sharp focus.
A woman pushing a stroller paused to extricate an angry child while Bell talked through the speakerphone.
"I got a job for you," he was saying. "The firm has a problem."
"I'm listening." His eyes stayed with the mother on the sidewalk. The child struggled out of her arms, made a break for the street.
"Just how tied up are you in Atlanta?"
"Depends," Fleck said. "What have you got?" By now he was standing, watching the woman tear after her kid.
A roaring semi blasted through Fleck's sight line. The woman launched herself into a tackle, arms out. When the truck had passed, his eyes searched for her again and found her dragging her child across the sidewalk. She picked him up, smacked his butt, and tethered him back into the stroller, tears streaming down her cheeks. Fleck sat down, turning to face the wall.
Bell said, "Pete was talking about you the other day. He liked your work on the Ibanez fraud case. I told him you were in Atlanta. He said call you. Confidentially, of course."
Law firms were like that. Discretion was the big virtue, even bigger than turning misery into money. Fleck didn't like Franklin Bell, but he liked Pete Altschuler, Bell's boss, a senior partner at Stevenson Safik & Morris, Berkeley's best-known law firm. Pete had represented him in the divorce and taken his middle-of-the-night calls, calls he was ashamed of now.
So he waited while Bell moseyed through the Berkeley weather report--hot and sunny--and talked about the fraud case, and Pete's mild heart attack, and the latest craziness on Telegraph Avenue, a shoot-out at one of the college bars, until he got back around to the reason for his call, which was to ask Fleck to catch the Delta red-eye Sunday night and meet him and Pete Monday morning to look into something important.
"I've got four more weeks on contract here," Fleck said.
He was working a temporary security job at one of the Peachtree Plaza skyscrapers. He had been in Atlanta for several months, and he liked it, the jazz, the bars, the style. In fact, he was thinking about moving here. In Atlanta, people of color could feel comfortable, could forget the race issue much of the time. In Berkeley, his hometown in California, it would always be black folks in the flats and white folks in the hills, white guilt and condescension, black rage. His ex-wife had been white. She still lived in their house on the old Grove Street, on the borderline.
"Interrupt it for a couple weeks," Bell said. He kept talking, wheedling, persuasing.