Book Review: The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights

by : C. M. Clifton

"The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights," by Faye Kellerman, is a collection of mostly crime fiction short stories, each having a brief introduction by the author. Published by Warner Books, ISBN: 978-0-446-53039-2, the book is likely to appeal to readers who enjoy mystery and suspense fiction.

Known for her crime fiction novels featuring L. A. homicide detective Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, Decker's Orthodox Jewish wife, Kellerman includes two previously unpublished Decker/Lazarus short stories within her collection. The sleuthing pair is as interesting and complex in "The Garden of Eden" and "Open House" as they are in the novels. Kudos to Faye Kellerman for maintaining Decker and Lazarus's characterizations in the short stories. The story "Bull's-Eye" is another short story that features the Decker clan, only this time readers are also introduced to Cindy Decker as she and her father work to solve a case. Again, Kellerman succeeds in keeping Peter Decker true to his fictional self and to readers by maintaining his character of being a concerned, supportive father in "Bull's-Eye."

My other favorites among the stories that comprise the collection are "The Stalker," "Mummy and Jack," "Bonding," "Mr. Barton's Head Case," and "Holy Water." While I actually enjoyed all of the crime fiction, these stories stood out for several reasons. The twist at the end of "The Stalker" is one of the best that I have recently read. I enjoyed "Mummy and Jack," a collaboration between Faye Kellerman and her son, Jesse, for its tone, voice, style, and dark humor. "Bonding" is one of my favorites because of its ending and its hard-boiled edge. "Mr. Barton's Head Case" entertained me with its cross genre appeal and its well done blend of crime fiction and speculative fiction. "Holy Water" is a favorite because I found it unique and imaginative.

My least favorites of the collection are "Free Parking," "The Luck of the Draw," "Small Miracles," and "The Summer of My Womanhood." The reason I liked them less was because they were not crime fiction stories. They were all well-written, but they appeared out of place to me in this particular collection. However, the book's blurb did mention that the collection contained other writing that offered "readers glimpses into Kellerman's private life." Still, I would have enjoyed the collection even more if the book had only contained crime fiction short stories.

Overall, I do not regret having bought the book. I like supporting good fiction, especially good short fiction as the short story can sometimes seem like it is becoming a vanishing literary art form. Despite my slight disappointment that the book did not contain a few more crime fiction stories, I think the collection was worth reading, and recommend that readers, particularly those who enjoy short crime fiction, read "The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights."