The new Touchstone book “Inherit the Dead” isn’t the first book written by a group of popular writers — it’s a tradition that goes all the way back to the Newsday-created “Naked Came the Stranger” in 1969 — but this novel-by-committee has to be one of the best examples of this eccentric genre.
Overseen by the New York City artist and crime writer Jonathan Santlofer, the book tells a taut and very suspenseful tale of a rich girl who goes missing just as she is about to come into her huge family fortune.
The novel grabs you in the first section and keeps building despite the fact that 20 writers contributed chapters. There is a lot of charm in the way the style and approach changes ever so slightly slightly as we start each new section with a new writer guiding us along. But, the storytelling pace never flags.
The protagonist is an ex-cop turned PI — Pericles “Perry” Christo — and the empathy gene present in fine mystery writers is proven by the fact that more than half of the “Inherit the Dead” team is female.
The roster of “Inherit the Dead” reads like a Who’s Who of the contemporary mystery, with contributions from Lawrence Block, Alafair Burke, Mary Higgins Clark, Val McDermid, S.J. Rozan and Dana Stabenow.
The book also includes the very welcome return of James Grady, whose novel “Six Days of the Condor” served as the basis for the 1975 Robert Redford film that trimmed three days from the title.
The master of ceremonies for the venture is Lee Child who notes in his introduction that “One of the most often repeated legends in the publishing world is that crime fiction writers are the nicest of all…That’s the legend. Is it true? Well, yes it is. All of us were new to the scene once, and all of us can testify to the help and support and encouragement we received from those who came before…But what about dropping everything for a good cause? That’s true, too. You’re holding the prooof in your hands.”
The cause served by “Inherit the Dead” is Safe Horizon, a charity designed to provide support for victims of crimes. One of the board members is another terrific New York-based mystery novelist, Linda Fairstein, who was a prosecutor before she crossed over to writing.
It isn’t often that you get to have so much fun while contributing to a wonderful charity.