Inherit the Dead is another of those sprawling, episodic, collaborative mystery efforts so popular of late (following, as it does, the similar No Rest for the Dead from 2011), perpetrated by the usual suspects (some A-listers, a bunch of crowd-pleasing mid-listers, and a few outliers), but this one is actually a private-eye novel, with the writing divvied up between Mary Higgins Clark, John Connolly, Charlaine Harris, C.J. Box, Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, Ken Bruen, Alafair Burke, Stephen L. Carter, Marcia Clark, Max Allan Collins, James Grady, Heather Graham, Bryan Gruley, Val McDermid, S.J. Rozan, Dana Stabenow, Lisa Unger, and Sarah Weinman. There’s an intro by Lee Child, and the whole thing was edited by Jonathan Santlofer.
The private eye is Perry Christo, a divorced dad and one-time NYPD homicide cop who’s been running on fumes (and parental guilt) since a corruption scandal cost him his career, his marriage, and, most importantly, time with his beloved daughter Nicky.
So when a loaded Upper East Side matron Julia Drusilla offers a load of cash for what seems like a no-brainer wandering-daughter job Perry jumps at the chance.
But tracking down the 20-year-old heiress Angel isn’t quite the slam-dunk he expected—it turns out everyone has a different reason for finding the troublesome party girl—or making sure she’s never found.
By their very nature, these sorts of multiple-author efforts are a mixed bag, the rough edges of any distinct personal style sanded away, smoothed out to better serve the project as a whole. Meanwhile, criticism of any fuzzy bits or narrative inconsistencies are generally considered bad form, to be hopefully glossed over by the fact the whole exercise is to benefit some charity or another—in this case Santlofer has arranged to donate any royalties in excess of editor and contributor compensation to Safe Horizon, a provider of services to victims of violence and abuse.
But writing is a solitary profession. Rarely do collaborations, never mind 20-member committees, deliver the sort of authorial magic readers crave. The payoff here—handled by master plotter Block—is satisfying enough, and you can almost see his style poking through, but by then, it’s too little, too late. Which is disappointing, given how much I love some of these authors, including Block. I think I’d have preferred 20 short stories about the same character by those authors (in their own voices).
So, a noble cause indeed, but just between you and me, this works better as a cause than a story.