Review: “Crime Stories,” J.A. Konrath

Pros: Entertaining
Cons: Sense of humor is a thing of individual taste
Rating: 3 out of 5


J.A. Konrath’s Crime Stories is a collection of 21 stories and essays. Some are mysteries or crime stories of one type or another, but humor is much more prevalent. Unfortunately, humor tends to be very much an individual taste thing. Konrath’s humor often feels random, and that sort of humor usually makes me shrug rather than laugh.

Four of the entries are mystery set-ups to be solved, followed by an explanation of what happened. One had a tell that was a giveaway, and a detail that felt like a plot device. One was clever, but a major detail felt contrived. A third relied on trivia rather than reader cleverness. There’s a tale of a baking contest, however, that I really enjoyed–the setup was clever, and it had a nice whimsical flair.

Several of the stories are dark and clever. The first story, about a shark-fishing expedition, is funny enough that I didn’t care that it was predictable. There’s a parody of cozy mysteries that’s over-the-top in its morbid fun; there’s a parody of the insanely insightful Sherlock Holmes-style detective that hit that too-random spot for me. A tale of an abusive husband, his wife, and her father gave me a bit of a shiver.

A couple of stories (Urgent Reply Needed, for example) felt like they were ‘cheating’ in the information that they hid from the reader and how it was hidden.

For humor value my favorite story is Light Drizzle. In this case the seeming randomness works, as it builds very deliberately on itself, becoming more and more ridiculous. It’s a short tale of an assassin who kills with everyday objects, as a bad day gets worse and worse for him. Don’t Press That Button also made me laugh: it’s a run-down of James Bond gadgets, what makes them cool or not, whether you’d want to own them, and what you might do with them. Cozy or Hardboiled? provides a hilarious, handy checklist to help you figure out what type of mystery you’re looking at, and it made me snort at the end.

Remember: You’re never too old to play with toys. Especially explosive, potentially deadly, extremely expensive toys.

There are two short stories about the trials and tribulations of being a writer. Piranha Pool is a great send-up of a writer who keeps trying to find someone who’ll like his story. Addiction is about the ways in which writing takes over one’s life (the humor was a little maudlin for my taste in that one).

A few too many of the stories were kind of ‘meh’ for me, mostly because they just didn’t suit my sense of humor. But again, that’s likely to be very much a matter of personal taste.

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