"It has been said that jazz and the short story are the two American contributions to the world of art, and they do seem to have at least this one thing in common: both are engaged in by the practitioner primarily for the love of doing it," begins editor Donald E. Westlake in the introduction to The Best American Mystery Stories 2000. Over the last three years, this series has become an annually awaited delight in the October mystery lineup, with series editor Otto Penzler providing the backbeat and writers like Ed McBain, Sue Grafton, and Tony Hillerman providing the editorial riffs that make each volume unique. Here, Westlake has helped produce an appropriately dark collection with a few sardonic chops, like the late Shel Silverstein's "The Guilty Party" and Bentley Dadmun's "Annie's Dream."
The contributors are nicely balanced between big names like Jeffery Deaver and Dennis Lehane; short-story stalwarts like Barbara D'Amato, Tom Franklin, and Doug Allyn; and newcomers like Geary Danihy, whose first published story, "Jumping with Jim," adds a Conradian twist to the story mix. The nice thing about mystery short stories vis-à-vis novels is that they rarely sacrifice the elements of plot and motive to the whimsy of character development. These in particular use the classic themes well, from jealousy and revenge in Deaver's "Triangle" (where the murderer's identity is given a surprise fillip), D'Amato's "Motel 66," and Lehane's "Running Out of Dog," to professional rivalry in Edward Lee's "ICU" (the title of which is a very dark pun indeed), to sheer disgust in Allyn's graceful "Miracles! Happen!" and Robert Girardi's "The Defenestration of Aba Sid." If there is any weakness to the collection, it might be the preponderance of Southern and rural story settings, but that also helps give it the uniquely American flavor this series is known for. Think of it like a good Glenn Miller album: it may not push the envelope of the art, but it's got more than enough variety to keep any fan of American mystery entertained through more than one long autumn evening. --Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Guest editor Westlake has done an outstanding job selecting 20 stories published in 1999 for this stellar anthology, now in its fourth year, which should continue to garner big sales. In his introduction he wonders at the form's durability. The financial rewards are small, and these days short stories won't make a literary reputation. Why then do its practitioners persist? As with jazz, that other great American contribution to world art, they engage in it "primarily for the love of doing it," asserts Westlake. In contrast to the novel, where digressions and red herrings are the norm, unity of effect is all, as exemplified by the inventor of the detective story, Edgar Allan PoeAand by the contemporary writers represented in this volume. The names here range from the late Shel Silverstein, bestselling children's book author, whose rollicking tale, "The Guilty Party," stands as a fitting swan song for this versatile talent, to Thomas H. McNeely, whose quietly chilling psychological study, "Sheep," is his first published work of fiction. Robert Girardi's novella, "The Defenestration of Aba Sid," works both as a tale of comic absurdity and as an anti-Grisham lawyer story. In a foreword, series editor Otto Penzler comments on how mysteries have evolved in both style and content. Over the life of the genre, stories have become more complex, more textured. When Penzler says "be prepared for the unexpected, and be ready for some of the best prose being written today," he's not overstating the case. This title will enjoy brisk library sales but is also poised to benefit from the continued general-reader interest in matters mysterious. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
...This book was a pleasant exception to the anthologies-are-boring rule. It was a fun read and I could not find any story that I didn't like. It was worth every penny. Read morePublished on July 16 2001 by Hans Albanese
I would have easily given this compilation five stars if I were able to make it through every single story. But unfortunately there were three which I could not finish. Read morePublished on Nov. 1 2000 by Nancy Hochman