INHERIT THE DEAD. By Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, C.J. Box, Ken Bruen, Alafair Burke, Stephen L. Carter, Marcia Clark, Mary Higgins Clark, Max Allan Collins, John Connolly, James Grady, Heather Graham, Bryan Gruley, Charlaine Harris, Val McDermid, S.J. Rozan, Jonathan Santlofer, Dana Stabenow, Lisa Unger and Sarah Weinman. Touchstone. 265 pages. $25.99.

So, what happens when one asks 20 mystery writers to collaborate for a good cause? A good book, naturally.

In "Inherit the Dead," everybody takes a chapter as disgraced former New York homicide detective and current private investigator Pericles Christo is hired by a dying, seriously rich woman to find her estranged daughter before the daughter's upcoming 21st birthday, when she must sign papers to receive a ridiculously large trust fund.

"Inherit the Dead" is a solid murder mystery all on its own, but it's more than that. For one thing, the authors - 22 of them, once you include the introduction and afterword - decided that as long as they were getting together to write an enjoyable noir, they'd play with a few of the classics: See how many references to such tales as "The Maltese Falcon" you can find.

Also, part of the proceeds are to be given to Safe Horizon, which writer and board member Linda Fairstein calls "the largest and best victims' services agency in the United States."

Good book, good cause, bad guy caught: win, win, win.

Reviewer Carol Edwards is a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County.