Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlaine Harris

May 6, 2010

Crimes by MoonlightCrimes by Moonlight is an anthology featuring members of the Mystery Writers of America. It was edited by Charlaine Harris, and the stories are all a mix of mystery and the supernatural.

Like every anthology, this one has its ups and downs. I’m a bit picky about short stories, so only a few of these tales really worked for me. Unless you’re the kind of reader who wants to own every story from one of these authors, I’d suggest checking it out from the library first before you buy a copy.

A breakdown of the individual stories is below.

  • “Dahlia Underground” by Charlaine Harris
    Dahlia hunts a group of anti-vampire extremists after their successful terrorist attack on a vampire gathering. This takes place shortly after the conclusion of All Together Dead (the seventh Sookie Stackhouse novel), though you don’t have to be familiar with that book to get the story. As a fan of this world, it was great to see some of the aftermath of the vampire summit in Rhodes. But Dahlia is not that easy to connect with and there were some overly convenient turns in the investigation.
  • “Hixton” by William Kent Krueger
    A man finds difficult answers after investigating a series of unsolved disappearances. It’s well-written, but the twist reminded me strongly of a recent Charlaine Harris story so that was a bit of a distraction.
  • “Small Change” by Margaret Maron
    A young girl with a strange talent investigates antique thefts. The characterization is shaky, partly because the heroine often sounds older than she’s supposed to be. The twist is a bit obvious, and things get dragged down by an unnecessary plot thread about a second perpetrator.
  • “The Trespassers” by Brendan DuBois
    The police chief of a small town responds to a death at the home of some recent arrivals. This is a spooky one and I enjoyed the writing style. Things are left a bit vague, but that works here.
  • “Madeeda” by Harley Jane Kozak
    Strange events in her home lead a mother to a mystery with a surprising personal connection. This one flows well and has an interesting atmosphere. The main character stands out as one of the more original protagonists in this collection.
  • “House of Horrors” by S.W. Hubbard
    A father is having difficulty adjusting to his adopted daughter, and then something strange happens on their family vacation. I liked the idea better than the actual story, I think I’d have preferred a little more creep factor.
  • “Sift, Almost Invisible, Though” by Jeffrey Somers
    An investigator is approached by a client with some unusual photographs. This is another case where the premise grabbed me more than the story did. I wish this story had an older setting, because it kept putting me off that there were all these film cameras lying around with not a mention of digital photography. I had just about decided that it had to have taken place some time ago, but then the photos were examined using a computer. It didn’t help that the ending was unpleasantly mean-spirited.
  • “The Bedroom Door” by Elaine Viets
    After receiving a reliable supernatural warning, a woman worries about the circumstances of the upcoming death of her business partner. Great concept for a story, but the silly “shock twist” ending ruined it.
  • “The Conqueror Worm” by Barbara D’Amato
    Memories of tragedy are dragged up by mysterious email messages. The ending was obvious, and the rest of the story didn’t make up for that. Also, the “haunted technology” plot has been done so often, and so well, in the past decade that it’s difficult to handle without seeming stale.
  • “In Memory of the Sibylline” by Lou Kemp
    A doctor and his family encounter a man with unusual abilities on a sailing voyage. I love stories about ships in the Age of Sail, and I liked the author’s style. But a jumpy tone and too many unnecessarily unanswered questions made this one difficult to engage with.
  • “The Bloodflower” by Martin Meyers
    As a mousy woman gains influence and power, disturbing things happen to those around her. This one was too random and dreamlike for me, which made it feel dull.
  • “The Awareness” by Terrie Farley Moran
    When a half-banshee keens for a murder victim, she decides to find out who killed him and why. I liked the character and setup, but the pacing was inconsistent.
  • “Tadesville” by Jack Fredrickson
    A traveling musician is haunted by the memory of a mostly empty town. Good atmosphere, especially at the beginning and end, but it was a bit too rambling for me.
  • “Limbo” by Steve Brewer
    A man wakes up during his own autopsy and tries to learn why he was killed. This premise has come up a lot before, and the story doesn’t have much real tension to justify the cliché.
  • “The Insider” by Mike Wiecek
    Stock tips from a ghost lead a paranormal investigator to a high stakes mystery. Inventive as well as entertaining, this is the standout story of the anthology.
  • “Swing Shift” by Dana Cameron
    A man helps his friend solve an espionage case with some unusual techniques. Good idea, but muddy details make it feel unpolished and the ending goes on too long.
  • “Riding High” by Carolyn Hart
    After seeing signs that a marriage isn’t what it seems, a ghost tries to set things right. This story has a good feel and one of the best expressed characters in the lot, but the wrap up feels kind of quick and arbitrary.
  • “Grave Matter” by Max Allen Collins & Mickey Spillane
    Mike Hammer uncovers a ghoulish conspiracy when he investigates the death of an old friend who’d fallen on hard times. The plot is a bit generic. There’s a note at the start of the story explaining that Spillane approved the story but didn’t do any of the writing, and I have a huge, long-standing bias against someone other than the creator using a famous character or setting in fiction. Yes, even with permission.
  • Death of a Vampire” by Parnell Hall
    A PI looks into a vampire that’s dating a college student. The vamp in this one has a bit of a spark, but the setting felt off and one character’s father is downright ridiculous.
  • “Taking the Long View” by Toni L.P. Kelner
    A new vampire gets caught up in a murder case that’s more complicated than it seems. Some interesting details here, but I didn’t care for the characters.

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