Alluring collection of crime mysteries with bookish theme

Otto Penzler is the editor of two recent crime collections.  Photo supplied.
Otto Penzler is the editor of two recent crime collections. Photo supplied.

DEATH SENTENCES<br><b>Otto Penzler</b><br><i>Head of Zeus/HarperCollins</i>
DEATH SENTENCES<br><b>Otto Penzler</b><br><i>Head of Zeus/HarperCollins</i>

Death Sentences, from veteran editor Otto Penzler, is a collection of 15 novellas by some of crime fiction's biggest talents.

Penzler, proprietor of New York City's The Mysterious Bookshop, is regarded as the world's foremost authority on crime, mystery and suspense fiction.

The book is a collection of engrossing ''bibliomysteries'' that were sold individually and exclusively through Penzler's New York-based Mysterious Bookshop.

Now collected in a single hardback edition with a foreword by Ian Rankin, it's a handsome book with its elegant dust jacket, silver lettering on the hard back spine and equally elegant contents within.

You won't readily find ''bibliomystery'' in any dictionary.

As Penzler points out on his website: ''Bibliophiles who also are mystery fiction aficionados certainly know what the word means, however abstruse or esoteric it may seem to those poor souls who do not share those affections. Books and short stories that fall into this small but elevated category of literature are, of course, mystery stories set in the world of books.''

If the crime involves rare books, says Penzler, or if a book or books are the primary ''macguffin'' (another word not in the dictionary and meaning an object or device in a movie or a book that serves merely as a trigger for the plot), it is a bibliomystery.

If much of the action is set in a bookshop or a library, it is a bibliomystery, just as it is if a major character is a bookseller or librarian.

And so it is with Death Sentences (love the title), a series of 15 mysteries crafted around the subject of books.

The first two stories feature a ruthless Mexican drug cartel boss with his library of thousands of valuable volumes and the next, antelopes and a book collection.

The last two feature a library of first editions where the story characters live with their books and a body in the Dead End Book Store. All 15 stories, as Ian Rankin says in his foreword, ''show their authors to be masters of their craft''.

It's 526 pages of compelling reading, very creative writing and a book fans of mystery writers won't want to put down.

• Ted Fox is an online marketing and social media consultant.



• The ODT has five copies of Death Sentences edited by Otto Penzler (RRP $34.99) to give away courtesy of Head of Zeus and HarperCollins. For your chance to win, email with your name and postal address in the body of the email and ''Death Sentences book competition'' in the subject line by 5pm on Tuesday, March 3.

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