Select one of the keywords
Murder in the Rough    edited by Otto Penzler order for
Murder in the Rough
by Otto Penzler
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

This entertaining collection of new short stories from fifteen modern masters of mystery, mayhem, and murder features an eclectic assortment of fairway felons, sand trap scoundrels, and clubhouse criminals.

The prolific Lawrence Block, leading off the field with the first tee time, starts solidly with his darkly comic cautionary tale involving a retired gentlemen whose obsessive attachment to his rigidly controlled routine becomes dangerously threatened by a presumptuous golfer whose own unbridled passion for the game becomes unbearable. Later on the tee box, the veteran Simon Brett scores impressively when he introduces readers to a modern-day would-be-Lothario whose ostensible passion for playing golf on Thursdays (and his secret passion for certain other out-of-bounds pursuits) ultimately places him in a very hazardous predicament with his wife, and he never sees the danger (nor the O'Henry-style ending) coming despite having been given fair warning.

Much later in the field, as if given a special sponsor's exemption to move from the LPGA and to play along with the big boys on the PGA circuit, Laura Lippman is (regrettably) the lone woman included among the anthology's contributors. However, she proves that she is up to the game, not needing any strokes or mulligans, in her scratch story of a husband (who had been playing golf for two years before his wife took up the game), the husband's wife (who was the first in the family to break 90), and a suspicious homicide detective (who is investigating the case of a body found in a nearby patch of wilderness). Ironically, all three ultimately must agree that golf is 'a terribly jealous mistress.'

But I don't want to give you thumbnail sketches of all the stories' plots - the small greens and the rules of fair play for the mystery book review simply will not permit any more information without the reviewer incurring a penalty - so let me instead head for the 19th hole at this point by simply recommending Murder in the Rough and by noting that other stories in the anthology come from Ken Bruen, Christopher Coake, Stephen Collins, Tom Franklin, Jonathan Gash, Steve Hamilton, H. R. F. Keating, Bradford Morrow, Ian Rankin, John Sandford, William G. Tapply, and John Westerman.

Most of the stories in this collection are perfectly executed hits, right down the middle of the genre's fairway, with exceptional depth and plenty of carry; however, as with all anthologies of short fiction, a couple of stories are less extraordinary efforts off the tee, and they slightly draw or fade a bit into the bothersome rough. As something of a bonus, in an interesting appendix, the prolific anthology editor and famous bookstore owner Otto Penzler has also included a short bibliography of other books in which golf, golfers, or golf courses feature notably in the plots, characterizations, or settings.

All in all, Murder in the Rough features plenty of spoon-swinging assailants, mashie-wielding murderers, and brassie-bandishing bandits. These tales-of-the-links will entertain both low and high-handicap golfers who like to have their mysteries in the short story format, and fanatic mystery readers like me who have a volatile love-hate relationship with the most murderous game of golf will also find much to admire in Penzler's collection.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews