Otto Penzler

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"Dangerous Women"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie FEB 17, 2005)

"What makes a woman dangerous? No doubt there are any number of opinions. depending upon the experience of the man or woman who responds. "Personally, I think the most dangerous women are those who are irresistible. Each of us may have a unique weakness, an Achilles heel that is unfathomable to others, or we may share universal sensibilities that everyone understands. It may be a woman's great beauty that wins our hearts, or her charm or her intelligence. It may be the way she brushes her hair back from her eyes, or the way she laughs or the way she sneezes.  "She may be acutely aware of her power, or utterly innocent of it. One will use it as a steel-edged weapon, another as a fuzzy security blanket. The intent neither increases nor diminishes the power, and that is the terrible danger to those who may be in thrall of it." -- Otto Penzler

Dangerous Women edited by Otto Penzler

The film, Fatal Attraction, features a dangerous woman - lethal, in fact. The Maltese Falcon's Brigid O'Shaughnessy is certainly a hazard. "What makes a woman dangerous?" Is she irresistible? Seductive? Does she wound with her eyes? Is she a femme fatale, "aware of her power, or utterly innocent of it?" Otto Penzler, editor, bookseller, and founder of Mysterious Press, asks this question in his Introduction to this short fiction anthology, Dangerous Women. The answer is subjective; a matter of opinion.

Seventeen outstanding authors, some of the best writers in the mystery/suspense genre, answer the question here, creatively, diabolically, deliciously. Lying, manipulation, seduction, horror, murder, suicide - they're all covered in these stories. Dangerous Women is an outstanding, wicked, absolutely amazing collection. Consistent excellence is what makes this book so special and sets it apart from the rest. Ed McBain, Michael Connelly, Joyce Carol Oates, Anne Perry, Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, Laura Lippman, Nelson DeMille, Thomas Cook, Andrew Klaven, John Connolly, Lorenzo Carcaterra, J. A. Jance, Jay McInerey, S. J. Rozen, Jeffrey Deaver and Ian Rankin, are all at their best here.

In Ed McBain's "Improvisation," a man approaches a tall, willowy blonde at a bar and asks her, "So, what do we do for a little excitement tonight?" The woman, a stranger, suggests, "Why don't we kill somebody?" Their mating ritual lightens up, but only momentarily. Michael Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch, says, in "Cielo Azul," that his LAPD partner always believed "the most dangerous women are beautiful in life, heartbreaking in death." "A black and silver diamond-headed spider, the so-called 'happy spider,' " who spins her web with venom, is Joyce Carol Oates' kind of woman in "Give Me Your Heart." Talk about a woman scorned! Walter Mosley's "Karma" loved somebody so much she'd die for him. "Rendezvous," Nelson DeMille's first short story in twenty-five years, takes you into a sweltering Vietnamese jungle where the most lethal enemy is not a man at all. Ian Rankin writes about a prison warden fascinated by the steamy prison mail he censors in "Soft Spot." Jeffrey Deaver's "Born Bad" is chilling! Every one of these stories is a gem, along with those I have not mentioned.

This is the perfect book to take on a trip....or on the train to work...or for reading during lunch hour. You can read a short story as satisfying as any novel, and put the book down without feeling that you have left at a crucial moment in the narrative. You can read selectively, or read only one story at a time. They are all winners. Dangerous Women is probably the best and most exciting mystery anthology I have ever come across. Highly recommended!

  • Amazon readers rating: from 7 reviews


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About the Author:

Otto PenzlerOtto Penzler (b. 1942) is the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. He was the publisher of The Armchair Detective, the Edgar-winning quarterly journal devoted to the study of mystery and suspense fiction, for seventeen years. Mr. Penzler was also the founder of The Mysterious Press, which has now become part of the Time Warner publishing empire; he also created the publishing firm of Otto Penzler Books, which is now an imprint at Carroll & Graf, and The Armchair Detective Library, a publishing house devoted to reprinting classic crime fiction for the collector and library markets.

Penzler is also the recipient of the Ellery Queen Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his contributions to the publishing field and he received a Raven in 2003.

Penzler lives at his bookstore in New York City.

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