David Baldacci (introduction), Laurie H. Armstrong, Sandra Brow – No Rest for the Dead (Unabridged)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

By Jeffrey Deaver, David Baldacci, Alexander McCall Smith, Kathy Reichs, Peter James, Tess Gerritsen and Jeff Lindsay

Mysteries are the guilty cheats of the book world.

When Christopher Thomas, a curator at San Francisco’s Museum of Fine Arts, is murdered and his decaying body is found in an iron maiden in Berlin, his wife Rosemary Thomas is the prime suspect. Long suffering under Christopher’s unfaithful ways, Rosemary is tried, convicted and executed.

Ten years later, Jon Nunn, the detective who cracked the case, becomes convinced that the wrong person was put to death. Along with financier Tony Olsen, he plans to gather everyone who was there the night Christopher died and finally uncover the truth about what happened that fateful evening.

Could it have been the ne’er do well brother Peter Hausen, interested in his sister’s trust fund having got through his own; the curatorial assistant Justine Olengard, used and betrayed by Christopher; the artist Belle who turned down his advances only to see her career suffer a setback; or someone else all together? No Rest for the Deadis a thrilling, page-turning accomplishment that only the very best thriller writers could achieve.

With the typical mystery story, readers are enthralled by the talents and imagination of only one writer. However, with this crime caper, the reader will enjoy the skillful spoils of twenty-six esteemed wordsmiths who craft plots, wield poisons, and toggle the life-death switch with the best of them. This is a rare thing indeed because mystery writers are notoriously reclusive, paranoid, and unfriendly folks when it comes to their work. They like calling the final shots on their novels; such absolute power is intoxicating if only for its rarity, particularly if they’ve sold their work to Hollywood and find that their power has withered to less than zero. However, outside the realm of stories and with drink in hand, they are interesting and convivial people who always have a crowd around them at parties, as all good storytellers do. That so many have agreed to craft chapters in the tale you’re about to plunge into is as much a testament to the persuasive powers of the editors at The Strand Magazine as it is to the graciousness of the creators assembled here.

There are authors in this round-robin who I enjoy. Tess Gerritsen and Jeff Lindsey (Dexter). I can see they all put their considerable talent together in this, nevertheless it came out poorly. I think each author got a character synopsis, what was supposed to happen in that chapter, and then were told “go for it.” The end result? Characters who had no character development, likability, and were flat. Each author seemed to say, “Oh, we’re not supposed to like this person? I can do better than what came before me” and took each chapter as a challenge instead of trying for cohesion. As for the plot, I think I saw a plot bunny or two through the book, and there was a bit of a story in the end, but for the most part, it was a lot of “nothing’s happening.”

The book contains some wonderful descriptions of San Francisco and the dodgy dealings of its art world. Along the way, there are plenty of red herrings thrown about and, about three-quarters the way through, a totally unforeseen plot twist. Appropriately, the chapter dealing with that was allocated to the master of that particular literary device, Jeffery Deaver. After that, the action ratchets up to a thrilling finale on Golden Gate Bridge.

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