The Best American Mystery Stories 1998 Paperback – Oct 30 1998
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Of the almost 600 mystery stories published in 1997, guest editor Sue Grafton has selected twenty of the finest for this installment of the acclaimed annual series. Authors range from the established (like Lawrence Block, Mary Higgins Clark, and Walter Mosley) to newcomers like David Ballard. All the tales are grounded in mystery fundamentals of crime and (usually) punishment, but each contains some edge or narrative experimentation that sets it apart from the flock. Block's "Keller on the Spot," for example, is a sardonic tale of a killer who saves the grandson of his next hit and winds up questioning his professional path. Stuart Kaminsky's entry, "Find Miriam," is a first-person narrative by Lew Fonesca, a detective who makes his living "finding people, asking questions, answering to nobody." In this case, however, the finding isn't the puzzle--the real puzzle is his client, a troubled husband whose wife has left him without an apparent motive. Throughout, Grafton's tastes run to the literary, and she is fascinated by the cathartic quality of each story. As she writes in her introduction: "Nowhere is iniquity, wrongdoing, and reparation more satisfying to behold than in the well-crafted yarns spun by the writers represented here. While we're plunged into the darkness by their skill and imagination, we're simultaneously reassured that we are safe... from ourselves." --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
paper 0-395-83585-2 Series editor Otto Penzler, who picked the 50 stories from which Grafton culled the 20 in this volume, has ranged far afield in search of what Grafton aptly calls crime stories, and the rewards are substantial. Scott Bartelss matter-of-fact heroin idyll first appeared in Tamaqua, Merrill Joan Gerber's tale of an ominously pesky fellow-alumnus in Chattahoochee Review, Steve Yarbrough's sorrowful rural reminiscence in Missouri Review, Dave Shaws droll confession of a chronic slip-and-fall artist in South Dakota Review, Joyce Carol Oatess tormented memoir of a faithless mother in Kenyon Review. Of the entries from more expected sources, the standouts are Stuart Kaminskys unexpectedly bleak quest for a missing wife, Peter Robinsons deceptively mellowed portrait of two old ladies sharing a cottage, and first-timer David Ballards remarkably assured spin on Roald Dahls classic Man from the Southas well as stories by Lawrence Block, John Lutz, and Donald E. Westlake that can also be found in Ed Gorman's rival The Year's 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories (p. 1240). Not the comprehensive yearbook of the genre Gorman produces, but this year, at least, a more rewarding collection of stories. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
In the first story, the author takes a simple child custody story as told by the point of view of the father. He then gets into an extraordinary circumstance that jeopardizes his relationship with his son. What makes this story interesting is that it is narrated by the ex-husband, leaving the reader with the preconceptions left by the storyteller. One must remember a lesson given to us by Agatha Christie in some of her books. It is never to take the narrator's story as face value. It is not till one reaches the end that one gets the rest of the story.
SECRETS was another delightful surprise. It is a revenge story several years in the making. Its main theme is the power of motherhood and the extremes that they will go in protecting their children.
Another interesting aspect of this book is a story by Stuart Kaminsky called FIND MIRIAM. It is an abbreviated version of his novel VENGEANCE. I assume he wrote the short story before he decided to make it a novel. It takes a genius to implement that same story in a novel and I think Kaminsky pulls it off.
Dave Shaw's well-told "Twelve Days out of Traction" takes us into a petty criminal's mind with amusing results. His narrator runs an insurance scam where he stages falls and his fake lawyer friends write threatening letters that earn his little consortium good money. But it's painful work--as the title indicates--and sometimes he can get surprisingly upstaged. Lawrence Block's intriguing "Keller on the Spot" offers a different twist. Keller's a contract killer sent to Dallas to murder a millionaire, but he ironically ends up becoming involved in the man's life in ways he could never have expected.
David Ballard's tricky "Child Support" imagines the devilish depths to which battling spouses can sink when their marriage collapses. Helen Tucker's rather predictable "The Power of Suggestion" also explores the modern marriage battleground, drawing equally disturbing conclusions about marital happiness and what it drives people to. But Merrill Joan Gerber paints a much brighter picture of family life, one so rich and fulfilling that it inspires more than envy in "This is a Voice from Your Past.Read more ›
This anthology has an interesting mix. I agree with some of the comments above about the bigger name authors having the weaker stories (except for Lawrence Block's "Keller" story, which won the Edgar Award last year -- he is incapable of writing a bad story). It's a good anthology to study if you write fiction, because it showcases what's hot now, where it's being published, and why: strong characterization, novel ideas, and lots of emotion. It also features two stories that were first sales (Ballard's is one of them), which is encouraging, if only to show that, yes, new writers are out there and can make it into a year's best anthology.
I'm glad I stumbled across this anthology. I'll be looking forward to the next one.
"Twelve Days" hilariously, intelligently and entertainingly satirizes what has truly become the national pastime--litigation. Written with a Sahara-like wit, the author leads the reader through the inner-thoughts of a career slip and fall con man during his latest job at a 7-11 in Poughkeepsie. Our hero's purpose at the 7-11 is to fake a fall and collect a quick out-of- court settlement before the insurance company catches on to the con. However, our hero is no slip and fall amateur, he takes pride in his craft and sells his falls by sustaining bona-fide injuries. You could say he is the Michelangelo of slip and fall artists. Although we never learn our flawed hero's name, that is because he keeps changing his name to stay a step ahead of the authorities, we do learn the names of his partners-in-scam-- they are Homer Pierce, attorneys at-law (there is more than one), and Dr. Greg Richardson or Dr. Richard Greggson, the same person but different names depending on the good doctor's ethical mood that day.
"Twelve Days" is not just some cute story about a man who falls on floors for a living. Instead, we learn a little bit about values in a capitalist society that places accumulation of wealth by any means over accumulation of wealth by just means. For instance, our hero's chosen vocation has helped him define a well-developed sense of right and wrong.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Although I can't say that I enjoyed every story, I can say that I enjoyed nearly all the stories, which is about as good as you can get with short story anthologies. Read morePublished on July 18 2001 by Frederick S. Goethel
as soon as i finished the book, i got online and ordered the 1999 edition.i never was much of a fiction reader, but i'm hooked nowPublished on Aug. 28 1999 by tim coleman
I just finished reading the book and I agree with the previous reviews I have read. Some of the stories, particularly those by Clark are not worthy of your time. Read morePublished on Feb. 19 1999
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