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The Best American Mystery Stories 2001 [Paperback]

Lawrence Block , Otto Penzler
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 10 2001 Best American
Best-selling author Lawrence Block is one of the mystery genre’s most prolific authors, with more than fifty books to his name, including Hit List, published in 2000. Block’s selections for The Best American Mystery Stories 2001 include stories by such luminaries as Joyce Carol Oates, T. Jefferson Parker, Russell Banks, and Peter Robinson.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Did you hear the story about the guy who shows up at his brother's house after a long absence with a van full of old wedding dresses? It's called "Family," was written by San Francisco-based Dan Leone, appeared originally in a magazine called "Literal Latte," and is one of the 20 unusually excellent tales of crime and mystery published in 2000 and collected by the hard-working series editor Otto Penzler and MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block for this fifth annual celebration of the form. Like one of those taster menus of small but wonderful items served at top restaurants, this is a rich and satisfying collation. Although every story is well worth reading, particularly dazzling are "Lobster Night," by Russell Banks, whose first line -"Stacy didn't mean to tell Noonan that when she was seventeen she was struck by lightning" deserves an award of its own; William Gay's "The Paperhanger," a Hitchcock movie waiting for the Master to return to make it; and "Her Hollywood" by Michael Hyde, which just about slides in under the wire of Block's dictum that "a crime or the threat of a crime is a central element" but is a chilling exercise in any genre. More traditional, but no less satisfying, are cop stories ("Erie's Last Day," by Steve Hockensmith, and "Under Suspicion," by Clark Howard); a private eye outing (Jeremiah Healy's "A Book of Kells"); and even an FBI effort (T. Jefferson Parker's "Easy Street"). A most impressive compilation especially given that, as Block notes in his introduction, two thirds of those selected were writers whose names were new to him.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"For those of you who like your vittles cafeteria-style, this is a nice spread of taste treats." The Washington Post

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd Selections May 20 2003
By A. Ross
I should note from the start that I only listened to the nine stories on the CD audio edition, so my comments only reflect roughly half of the book's contents. I have to say that they were a bit of a disappointment overall. One would expect a collection of mystery stories to have some, well, mystery... Instead, the stories are heavy on atmosphere, emphasizing it over plot, and sometimes there is only the slimmest connection to crime at all. Roxana Robinson's "Face Lift" for example, is a curious inclusion by any measure. I'm not any kind of genre purist, nor am I big fan of whodunits, or traditional mysteries-but it seems like the editors were going more for stories with cachet (either a name literary author such as Russell Banks or Joyce Carol Oates, or a name source publication like Esquire), rather than actually finding mysteries that are great reads. I'm also not one who likes to puzzle out the endings to mysteries ahead of time, but I had the endings spotted halfway through the three most "traditional" mysteries of the nine on the CD (which were also my three favorites as it happened). The only story to make me somewhat interested in reading something else by the author was Peter Robinson's "Missing in Action", which had an interesting WWII setting and a light touch. Still, one out of nine isn't a great success rate, and if the other eleven stories are of the same ilk, I'd have to recommend skipping this year's collection.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Some good stories, but not terribly hardboiled Feb. 28 2002
"The Best Mystery Stories of 2001" is a strange collection. Because it was edited by the great Lawrence Block, I expected it to contain a fair number of good hardboiled stories. Alas, that is the one subgenre that gets the short shrift in this collection. I noted that many of these stories first appeared in literary magazines, which may have something to do with why so many of them are written with flowery prose and are a tad shy on gritty street realism. There is also a decided absence of big name mystery authors, with long time great Bill Pronzini being one of the few icons in the collection. As soon as Pronzini's story, a first rate "Nameless" dectective tale, begins, the level of excitement rose for me. Jerimiah Healy is also in this collection, but his Cuddy short story is fairly pedestrian. Big name T. Jefferson Parker delivers "Easy Street," which is among the best in the collection. The others were a mixed bag for me, and I found some of them, like Roxanna Robinson's "The Face Lift," to barely qualify as mystery stories.
Overall, this collection left me wondering. If these really are the "best" mystery short stories being produced today, then the genre could definately use a good jump start.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A decent collection, but not of mystery stories Nov. 5 2001
I was a little irritated when I finished this collection. The stories, on the whole, are fine, and there are several excellent ones. But the collection's title is misleading. The definition of a "mystery story" used by the editors was any story involving a crime, and even that definition gets stretched a bit. For example, under this broad definition, a story about violence among prison inmates, or about the emotional fallout on a woman who was the victim of a sexual assault as a young girl, get included in the collection. That doesn't mean they are bad stories, of course, but "mystery" stories? I understand that limiting the collection of true detective stories may be too restrictive, but in my view a "mystery" story should have an element of suspense - not to put to fine a point on it, but some element of mystery - that a number of these stories lack. Is the field of mystery stories really so moribund that they couldn't fill a collection without broadening the definition so much as to make it meaningless? If you're looking for a collection of good stories loosely connected to crime and violence, this collection's a good bet. Otherwise, it's hardly what it claims to be.
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1.0 out of 5 stars sellout Feb. 25 2003
By A Customer
Penzler and Block sold out to the literary establishment on this one. Or maybe it was Michele Slung. Anyway, it seems like they chose any story--no matter how pointless and uninteresting--with a crime in it that appeared in a 'literary magazine'. Trying to brown-nose some credibility perhaps? Anyway, don't read this if you're looking for a good mystery of crime story. Try Gorman's 'World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories'. This one's a waste.
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