Claudia Bishop and Don Bruns (editors): A Merry Band of Murderers

Even for someone who never reads anthologies (like me) this one has a bit more going for it than the usual. I’m not a big fan of the mystery short story unless they’re written by Rex Stout, but taking a look at this book, I can see I’ve been missing out. Don Bruns, himself a musician and a writer, pulled together a group of writers who also are singers and not only had them write a short story but had them record a song – the CD is included (so the price point is a complete bargain). He has an impressive list of contributors, including Jeffery Deaver, John Lescroart, Val McDermid, Rhys Bowen and Peter Robinson, and after each story there’s an interview with each author, making this book truly unique.

Bruns’ own story, “Courage”, is violent, intense and memorable – an old man sits on the roof of his house with his dog as his neighborhood floods around him (could he be living in New Orleans? Bruns isn’t specific on that point, but it makes the story more timeless). The old man’s life has been hell before the flood – his neighbors are a bunch of thugs who steal from him, terrorize his dog, urinate on his house and destroy his wife’s prized rose bushes. It’s basically every homeowner’s nightmare – hang on to your home in a dubious neighborhood for too long and you’re trapped, just as the old man is now literally trapped on his roof, one shell in his shotgun, and three thugs eyeing him and his dog from the house next door. I won’t give away what happens next – this is, after all, a short story – but I will tell you that you won’t forget it after having read it.

Don is one of the more charming newcomers to the mystery community – he’s become a fixture at conventions, he’s relentlessly cheerful, and he always brings his guitar, ready for anything. Don’t miss the pleasure of meeting one of mystery’s nicest guys.

Don also writes a series of Caribbean mysteries featuring rock and roll journalist Mick Sever. The latest book in the series is South Beach Shakedown.