The Darkling Halls of Ivy, edited by Lawrence Block, is an excellent themed anthology with 18 stories (17 are original to this volume and one, by Peter Lovesey, is a reprint) set in and around academia. The table of contents reads like a listing of my favorite crime and mystery short story writers: David Morrell, Reed Farrel Coleman, Joe R. Lansdale, Ian Rankin…and the list goes on.
Reed Farrel Coleman’s contribution, “An Even Three,” is an ironic and twisty tale about a psychopath and a philosophical kind of revenge. “Goon #4” by Tod Goldberg is a brilliant, humorous, and perfectly plotted story about a mercenary’s first semester at a community college. Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Degree” is a dystopian tale about a student seeking a degree in environmental science. The story is as surprising as it is telling about our current cultural fears. “With Footnotes and References” by Gar Anthony Haywood is a straightforward tale about cheating and blackmail, and finding a way to never be the biggest loser in a bad deal. There are also fine stories by Jane Hamilton, Owen King, John Lescroart, and Tom Straw.