‘The Rich and The Dead’ a buffet of suspense

“The Rich and The Dead” is a collection of short stories edited by Nelson DeMille. How in the world could I resist?

And, as it turned out, this compendium from the Mystery Writers of America was worth every page, thanks to the prodigious talents of DeMille, Lee Child, Ted Bell, Twist Phelan and 16 other authors.

Some of the stories are very definitely about the rich and the dead, topics that seem to be endlessly fascinating to those of us who fit in neither category. Carolyn Mullen’s “Poetic Justice” is a period piece that gives flesh and bones to a classic old poem — and, of course, tells “the rest of the story.” DeMille’s “Death Benefits” is based on the age-old love-hate relationships between writers and their agents. Tim Chapman’s somewhat disturbing “Kiddieland” underscores that the rich really are different than you and me, and that sometimes they get away with doing an utterly wrong thing — because it was for the right reasons? Maybe. Maybe not.

Other stories don’t stick as closely to the theme but are vastly entertaining nonetheless. Bell’s “The Pirate of Palm Beach” is a tale of folly and frivolity in a favorite enclave of the rich and famous. Frank Cook’s “The Gift” is a story of just desserts that ends with someone who is not dead, but no doubt wishes he were.

The stories present plenty of variety in writing styles, subject matter, pacing and plot. If they share one thing, it’s that they spring from some of the best mystery-oriented writing minds in the country today.

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