Written by: Mary Higgins Clark, Charlaine Harris, John Connolly, C.J. Box, Heather Graham, Max Allen Collins, Lisa Unger…
Edited by: Jonathan Santlofer
Published by: Touchstone
Perry Christo used to be a NYPD homicide detective, now he’s a divorced, nearly washed up P.I. On a miserable winter day he receives a call from a prospective client. A daughter is missing, has been missing for a week, possibly two. Perry does not have to flex his investigatory prowess much to sense this case will be trouble, but the Park Avenue address of the possible client overrides any reservations he may have. So Perry grabs his battered trench coat and heads out into the New York winter and points his feet towards Park Avenue.
You may have noticed that this book has a rather large number of authors, I actually got tired of typing them in up above, hence the … Twenty top mystery writers contributed to Inherit The Dead. What would convince twenty busy writers to contribute a chapter each to a story that started out as someone elses idea? Well one answer is a good cause. Inherit The Dead was put together to raise money and awareness for Safe Horizon. Started in New York in 1978 Safe Horizon was the first advocacy and support group for the victims of crime and abuse. Today Safe Horizon has more than fifty seven programs that provides assistance to 250,000 crime victims and aids more than 4,000 sexually or physically abused children. So even if Inherit The Dead doesn’t quite live up to the expectations you might have for a mystery written by twenty masters of the genre at least it’s all for a good cause.
So that’s the question is Inherit The Dead twenty times better than a mystery written by just one writer? Okay that’s setting the bar a mite high maybe a more appropriate question would be is simply is it any good. Read on my friend.
As mentioned Perry Christo used to be a NYPD homicide detective. He was also happily married and the proud father of a young daughter. His descent to the status of divorced Private Investigator was not a happy one. He was drummed out of the force for trying to bust a couple of corrupt fellow officers who managed to have much better political connections that Perry. He ended up being the one leaving the force in disgrace wrongly accused of beating up a preacher. Losing not only his job but the respect of most of his fellow officers and eventually his wife and daughter. So now he’s living out of a tiny one bedroom Yorkville apartment which he shares with a couple of computers, a scanner and various video and still cameras that enable to do his job of investigating insurance fraud and finding people who don’t want to be found.
It’s the finding people part of the job that’s got him outdoors and heading towards the Upper East side at the moment. His new prospective client is Julia Drusilla a rich penthouse dwelling ice queen and her estranged daughter is missing. Angel her daughter is about to turn twenty one and stands to inherit millions of dollars. Strangely there are papers that Angel must sign on her twenty first birthday or she does not inherit and according to Julia, Angel is unaware of all of this. The oddness does not end there. Julia has not seen Angel in a year, Angel lives with her father, and her father has not seen her in two weeks. Perry knows he’s about to step into a web of dysfunction, but he needs the money and it’s what he does. Things do not get any clearer when Perry interviews her stoner father who lives comfortably in the Hamptons or her artist poser best friend or her lowlife mechanic lover. And just to make things more interesting Perry has picked up a stalker.
The setup is enough to catch your interest, the plot plugs along fairly regularly and the story winds up with a passable ending, unfortunately by the time you get to the end you probably don’t care and just want to find out if you have figured out the twist or not. I had the easy part figured out by the end but I have to admit there was one surprise I didn’t see coming. As you might have figured out if you actually think a bit about the mechanics of twenty different people writing one story the tone of the narrative can jump around a bit. In the early chapters at least, there is also some repetition as Perry’s background is filled out. But the biggest problem is Perry, the protagonist. Perry isn’t a very likeable guy, which might be forgivable if he was interesting, but I never found myself identifying with him. It seems he was always complaining about the cold, his Datsun, Long Island, rich people, not being a cop, and how little time he gets to spend with his daughter.
I hesitate to disparage the contributors but I have to wonder how much care and craft went into each chapter. I couldn’t help but get the vibe that the concept sounded a lot more attractive to the authors when they volunteered than when they started to get near whatever deadlines they had. Still, it’s all for a good cause and probably more fun for everyone involved than just writing a check.