The Hole By Hole
Virtual Bookstore Reviews
Murder in the Rough:
Some folks don’t know what they’re missing.
For example, apparently it’s well-known in the publishing industry that relatively few book lovers purchase short story or essay collections. The remainder bins at some of the local bookstores around here often include recent editions of the collected thoughts of various familiar op-ed columnists. It’s also a common sight to see books of short stories, some of very recent vintage, waiting to be noticed in the back aisles of the larger, blockbuster-oriented bookstores.
Fortunately, the publishers keep trying. Those of us who enjoy reading the shorter stuff are the better for it.
Murder in the Rough is a new addition to the golf mystery genre, and it is highly entertaining. Otto Penzler gathered together some of the leading lights in modern-day crime writing, and depending on one’s taste for skullduggery on the links, there are plenty of gems among the fifteen stories in the collection.
All of the pieces are new, and there are a variety of voices in each of them.
The narrator in Ian Rankin’s “Graduation Day” reminded me a bit of Henry Hill, Ray Liotta’s character in Goodfellas—that is, if Hill had found himself standing in a fairway at St. Andrews, waiting for his boss to win a bet. On the other hand, the ambitious young woman who doesn’t let anything or anyone impede her goal of making it on the professional tour in John Sandford’s “Lucy Had a List” was more reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon’s character in Election—albeit far more deadly.
A few stories are almost old-fashioned, a bit like Dick Francis’s horse-racing series, and that’s fine with me. I especially enjoyed H.R.F. Keating’s “Miss Unwin Plays by the Rules.” A young governess in late Victorian England must find a way to preserve her position after discovering some decidedly unpleasant truths about her employer. Another British story, Jonathan Gash’s “Death by Golf,” looks at the seamier side of antique dealers and other cast-offs on the edge of the sport.
Other pieces are more atmospheric, such as Bradford Morrow’s “The Hoarder” and Tom Franklin’s “Those Good Days.” Their connection to normal golf is tenuous at best, but there’s a strong current of dread running through both stories.
I can’t say that I liked every short story in the collection, but that’s to be expected in a compilation like this. I’m equally sure that other readers would have a different list of favorites and others that were not so much enjoyed.
One of the features of these books is the opportunity to sample the work of several authors all at once. As the writers themselves surely realized, Penzler gave them the chance to reach a potentially wider audience for their other work.
And for fans of golf and mysteries, this collection provides a thoroughly agreeable incentive.
Review date: August 20, 2006
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