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The Best American Mystery Stories 2000 [Paperback]

Otto Penzler , Donald E. Westlake
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 19 2000 Best American
After just three years, THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES series is already a great success, earning raves from such diverse sources as Joyce Carol Oates, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, and ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. Little wonder, given the power of the Best American brand, the talent of the series editor, Otto Penzler, and the high profile of the guest editors. Now, with the legendary mystery writer Donald E. Westlake as guest editor, the 2000 edition is sure to boost the series’ popularity even more. From Tfty exceptional stories chosen by Penzler, Westlake has selected the twenty best, including stories by Tom Franklin, Jeffery Deaver, Shel Silverstein, and Dennis Lehane, for a collection that will delight mystery buffs and casual readers alike.

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"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.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I was surprised how good this was April 10 2002
Format:Paperback
I'm not the biggest fan of mystery stories, so I was unsure of how much I would like this collection. I was surprised at how much I liked it. There were a few that I didn't like that much, but most of them were good stories and most were well written. They ranged from ok to good, better, and on up to great stories like Shel Silverstein's story, Edward Lee's twisted story "ICU", and what i think was the best, Robert Girardi's "The Defenestration of Aba Sid", which is his 'anti-Grisham' story. A great deal of the selections here come from books and there is no surprise that both Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine both had three stories in here (the most from any one place). I suppose it's because there aren't many genre magazines anymore, but a few of these stories first appeared in literary magazines. The book is a little longer (around 480 pages) than those in The Best American Short Story series, but mystery stories need a little time to unfold. It's a good selection for the mystery reader (no matter which 'type' of mystery story you like) and for those of us who don't normally read the genre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives Up to the Title March 27 2002
Format:Paperback
"Best American Mystery Stories 2000" lives up to its title. It is a varied collection of (mostly) fine mystery and crime stories, many by up and coming authors. I'll confess that two or three of them didn't work for me, but that's a very small number in a book than contains 20 stories and nearly 480 pages of text. My two favorites were by two of the few old names in the collection. Dennis Lehane spins an excellent down south slice of life tale in "Running Out of Dog," while longtime television writer and children's author, the late Shel Silverstein, chimes in with the light-in-tone but still serious courtroom story "The Guilty Party." Doug Allyn contributes a fine private eye tale with "Miracles! Happen!" while Barbara D'Amato spins an on-the-road yarn with a twist in "Motel 66." Also first rate are Tom Franklin's "Grit," and the down and dirty gangster in the hospital tale "ICU."
Basically, there's a mystery story here for just about every type of mystery fan, from hard-boiled detective tales, to crime stories, to amature sleuths to compelling whodunnits? Modern short stories do not get nearly the audience they should, and this is a book that deserves to be read.
(Note: The 2000 "Best Mystery Stories" collection is far superior to the 2001 anthology, mostly because it has a better variety of stories).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flesh wound rather than a gut shot... Feb. 25 2001
Format:Paperback
Having read the 1999 anthology I looked forward to this year's edition with great anticipation. The 1999 anthology was quite simply the best book of mystery stories I had ever read. Unfortunately, mystery writers apparently had an "off" year this year, though--maybe their minds were preoccupied with Y2K. It wasn't until the last third of the anthology that the 2000 edition really took off, with Edward Lee's twisted little "ICU", Dennis Lehane's excellent "Running Out of Dog" and Thomas McNeely's twisted long "Sheep". Shel Silverstein's "The Guilty Party" is an amusing addition, but I thought he telegraphed the ending by miles. All in all, this book has many good stories, but simply lacks the consistency of quality from the previous year's. Lehane's story was reprinted from another anthology also edited by Otto Penzler. Several stories listed as "Other Distinguished Mystery Stories of 1999", including one by the terrific novelist James Hall, appear in this book, called "Murder and Obsession", and it might well be worth a look.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Promising new authors Jan. 4 2002
Format:Paperback
In this anthology, Donald E. Westlake includes a lot of new authors who have not yet published their first novel. I had trouble following some of the stories after reaching their conclusion (GHOSTS by David Beaty), but others show real promise for the future.
One of my favorite stories is MOTEL 66 by Barbara D'Amato. It is a fairly short story that packs a lot of suspense and intrigue. The story takes place at different points in time (1971, 1985, and 1999) in which two events that happened in 1971 come full circle in 1999. There is no real ending to this story except for the one in the reader's mind. This is what a good short story should be like. It should leave the reader wondering what will happen after all the stories secrets are revealed. Another one of my favorites is WRONG NUMBERS by Josh Pryor.
There are some other good stories in the anthology written by Dennis Lehane, Shel Silverstein and Jeffery Deaver.
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