26 mystery writers, one mystery – how could this go wrong? Well, let’s just say the expression “too many cooks spoil the broth” is more than apt here. Several authors I am very familiar with contribute to this novel including Jeffrey Deaver, Sandra Brown, R.L. Stine, Kathy Reichs.
I have read a couple compilations where different authors work on telling one story (most notably “Serial” by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch, who went on to author a couple more compilations with the same characters), and have always found the different voices brought by the authors fascinating. However, one of the things I look forward to the most is understanding the process. Kilborn and Crouch explained their process wonderfully, which made me more excited about the book. No Rest for the Dead lacks some kind of depth for me simply because I do not know or understand the process of how the book was written. Were all authors given a general storyline and expected ending? Did they write their own sections individually and then puzzle everything together for a final story? Or was it that one author wrote a section, sent it to the next who wrote, then sent it to the next and so on and so forth? I am not sure how this book was written exactly, and that prevented me from truly getting into the story.
Ah yes… the story. Ten years after Rosemary Thomas was executed for the murder of her philandering, drug-using, swindling husband, her boss is planning a memorial service for her. Oddly enough it is being held at Rosemary’s old place of work (and the last place she saw her husband): a prestigious museum. All the guests are people who knew Rosemary and her husband while they were still alive, including several of his mistresses and the cop who never dealt with the fact that he sent a possibly innocent woman to her death. The plotline is quite basic, and very Lifetime-movie, and the characters are mostly unsympathetic.
The main character, the cop who investigated the case, seems underdeveloped and (by the end of the novel) beyond incompetent. Each author works with the same characters, which I found to be problematic since no character was given a specific voice through a specific authors voice. The novel would have been much more effective if each author tackled a specific character (especially since this is a “bring the suspects to one place” story) so that each author’s voice could truly shine through. As it stood, too many chapters read like “generic-mystery story” and the only ones that stood out were the not-good writing (for example, Thomas Cook uses so many metaphors and similes that in the end his chapter was fluff and pretty useless).
Even more disappointingly, the memorial service turns out to be a useless plot device with only a few chapters spent here. I was expecting this to be more like a Clue-whodunit novel given the leadup and general storyline. Instead it falls completely flat, with several obvious twists, and a confusing and disappointing climax.
In general I found myself fairly bored by this disappointing novel, constantly wishing it for to be better yet it never was. It would have been a much more pleasant experience with fewer contributing authors who could actually work on building a coherent, dynamic story. As it stands though, it’s just a big idea with no payoff.