Have I told you that I like books? Honest to goodness books that have pages and are cool enough to fill up bookshelves? Those kinds of books?
I bring that up because I received a free copy of Manhattan Mayhem from Quirk Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I thought it looked like an interesting one, based on the cover they showed online and the general description. The book is a selection of short stories – crime stories – all taking place within the different neighborhoods of New York City. Best-selling novelist Mary Higgins Clark put together the anthology and even wrote the first story of the group.
Maybe it’s because I’m not a big fan of NYC (though I’ll promise to love it if someday I have an agent and/or publisher there and fly out every so often to meet with them and discuss my new releases). Or maybe it’s because the copy I received was an on-line version and I’m not used to reading books on my iPad instead of on the page. Or maybe it’s because I love a good novel and really need a short story to completely grab me and be unforgettable to make me feel that it was worth my time to read in place of a few chapters of a novel. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that this might not have been the book for me.
I’ve never read anything by Mary Higgins Clark before and I was definitely curious to read her story “The Five-Dollar Dress” that started the anthology. But…I was completely underwhelmed. It seemed like she put it together in a hurry and wasn’t completely invested in it herself. It kind of seemed that way with a lot of the authors – like they thought this was a cool idea but that they could just throw something together and the idea, or the concept, would carry it home.
Margaret Maron’s “Red Headed Stepchild” red like a short children’s book. Fine if that was the goal, but not what I was expecting, and probably not really the goal either. The main character of Persia Walker’s “Dizzy and Gillespie” was a product of the inner city who showed a lack of education with her use of the English language, yet used five and six syllable words correctly at other times. It was distracting and inconsistent. And Angela Zeman’s “Wall Street Rodeo”, well…I’ll be nice and simply say “no” to that one…
There were some decent works – “Sutton Death Overtime” by Judith Kelman was definitely a strong work that was memorable after you put the book down. And that’s what I’m going for in a short story. Something that’s not instantly forgettable. Something that packs a little punch.
I’ll admit that part of the issue is me. I’m just not a fan of New York. Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul and other cities just hold so much more charm for me. But I think the concept of this book was interesting and I believe New Yorkers – those who live there and those who hold it as a special place in their hearts – will enjoy this book. It does well at bringing out the ideas of the different neighborhoods of the city. They’re just not my neighborhoods, so that wasn’t enough to get me past the average writing and stories.
I have to give this a 2 out of 5 stars – anything else would just be cruel… Maybe someday I’ll go back and read it again with a little more appreciation for that city. Someday when I have an agent out there who loves the place and is showing it off to a writer who’ has just signed a contract for a book deal and for whom everything – even New York – is beautiful.