Is it possible to publish an anthology of mystery stories without including Joyce Carol Oates? Apparently not, as series editor Otto Penzler says in his foreword to this outstanding compendium: "She has appeared in six of the seven annual volumes.... Nobody makes it into these books based on their fame or popularity, and she is no different. It is about the work, and she simply will not be denied." Oates's "The Skull," a richly mordant, Poe-ish tale of a forensic scientist obsessed with the head bones of a murder victim, might not be the best of the 20 stories, but it's certainly right up there. Other brand names working at their peak include George P. Pelecanos ("The Dead Their Eyes Implore Us") and Scott Phillips ("Sockdolager"), both of whom probe the roots of characters from their respective novels. Writers who deserve to be more famous, like Doug Allyn, O'Neill de Noux and Monica Wood, bring fresh insights to familiar material. By far the oddest entry is Taylor Dilts's "Thug: Signification and the (De) Construction of Self," which manages to combine an essay on deconstruction, complete with footnotes, with an entertaining crime story. As guest editor Connelly says in his introduction, if a novel is an SUV, a short story is a sports car. "I drove seven SUVs before I ever tried a sports car," he admits. "I found the difference amazing." Readers should share that amazement.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
For this annual collection, series editor Penzler first selects what he feels are the best 50 crime stories of the year from the 1,000 to 1,200 possibilities; then the guest editor, Connelly this time around and always a big-name crime writer, chooses from that group the 20 that will appear in the annual volume. High-end literary figures not usually associated with genre fiction often appear--Joyce Carol Oates has turned up in six of the seven volumes--but the mix of well-known and unheralded writers varies from year to year. This year the well-knowns have the floor, with James Crumley, Pete Dexter, Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, and George P. Pelecanos all on board and all turning in excellent stories. The highlight, though, goes to Doug Allyn's "The Jukebox King," in which a Detroit bar owner uses the murder of a Mob hit man as a way to parlay himself into the juke racket. This series can be counted on to showcase the best of mainstream crime fiction. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.