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The Best American Mystery Stories 2003 [Paperback]

Michael Connelly , Otto Penzler
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 10 2003 Best American
This seventh installment of the premier mystery anthology boasts pulse-quickening stories from all reaches of the genre, selected by the world-renowned mystery writer Michael Connelly. His choices include a Prohibition-era tale of a scorned lover's revenge, a Sherlock Holmes-inspired mystery solved by an actor playing the famous detective onstage, stories of a woman's near-fatal search for self-discovery, a bar owner's gutsy attempt to outwit the mob, and a showdown between double-crossing detectives, and a tale of murder by psychology. This year's edition features mystery favorites Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, James Crumley, Joyce Carol Oates, and Brendan DuBois as well as talented up-and-comers, for a diverse collection sure to thrill all readers.

Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads pieces from hundreds of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field. This unique system has helped make the Best American series the most respected -- and most popular -- of its kind.
Edgar Award winner Michael Connelly has chosen a collection of stellar stories by the genre's luminaries and by the most promising newer talents in the field. As usual, this year's Best American Mystery Stories will delight readers with dramatic variety and unsurpassed quality.

James Crumley Pete Dexter Brendan DuBois Elmore Leonard Walter Mosley Joyce Carol Oates

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From Publishers Weekly

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.

From Booklist

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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly Noir but Nice Jan. 1 2004
Format:Paperback
Otto Penzler (owner of the Mysterious Bookshop and THE editor of mystery stories) chose 50 stories and selected writer Michael Connelly to winnow the list to the final 20. The initial Penzler criterion is broad: any story in which a crime, or threat of crime, is central to the plot. The stories are generally from small literary magazines (although the first comes from the popular Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine) and there isn't really a bad writer in it. Moments of humor are rare (excepting The Adventure of the Agitated Actress, in which the actor playing Sherlock Holmes is required to solve a crime). Dashiell Hammett appears (War Can be Murder by Mike Doogan) as a detective. The Confession, by Robert McKee, is a straightforward mystery while in Controlled Burn, by Scott Wolven, the protagonist is destroyed by guilt and all crime is off-stage. Death on Denial is comfortably clever. I particularly liked Joyce Carol Oates' The Skull, about a forensic sculptor in love with his Pygmalion, and After You've Gone (John Payton Cooke) about a suicidal cop and the intervention by a very strange suicide help line. The Jukebox (Doug Allyn) is a lovely piece set in 1960 but feels like Chandler era tale of the mob. Walter Mosely's Lavender feels like an excerp from a novel and is not his best work. Elmore Leonard makes an appearance with When the WOmen Come Out to Dance (it's got a nice twist but you expect that with Leonard). My hands down favorite is The Pickpocket by Christopher Cook, a tale that looks at the loss of honor and the pleasure of a well-honed skill -- tone and content blend beautifully in this Paris based tale.
The stories are generally well written and a few are gems.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Kudos to Penzler and Connelly Dec 17 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This may be the best collection of stories in the short history of the series. Although I found a few duds among the selections, the overall quality of the writing is significantly better than in most previous years. I attribute this improvement to the large number of stories from sources other than the obvious mystery magazines. Indeed, several of this year's stories are taken from literary magazines. The net result is that readers are treated to good writing as well as engaging crime stories. Kudos to series editor Otto Penzler and guest editor Michael Connelly for recognizing that good crime stories can be found in many literary outlets. I hope this is a trend that continues in future editions.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars A Melange of Mysteries Oct. 1 2003
Format:Paperback
A Mélange of Mysteries
This collection offers a smorgasbord of mystery stories as varied as the diversity of America itself. From "The Jukebox King", set in Detroit in the 60's to "The Adventure of the Agitated Actress", a delightful retake of Sherlock Holmes in London, the anthology offers the best of the year. And, as always, Joyce Carol Oates contributes a compelling, beautifully written and enigmatic short story. Worthwhile reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars pretty solid Dec 18 2003
Format:Paperback
This year's Best American Mystery Stories is a pretty good collection of stories. In fact, most of the stories are pretty good--we've all the usual suspects in this volume. I'll say the best two stories in the collection are by two Christophers, Chambers and Cook. This is a good collection to read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly Noir but Nice Jan. 1 2004
By A. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Otto Penzler (owner of the Mysterious Bookshop and THE editor of mystery stories) chose 50 stories and selected writer Michael Connelly to winnow the list to the final 20. The initial Penzler criterion is broad: any story in which a crime, or threat of crime, is central to the plot. The stories are generally from small literary magazines (although the first comes from the popular Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine) and there isn't really a bad writer in it. Moments of humor are rare (excepting The Adventure of the Agitated Actress, in which the actor playing Sherlock Holmes is required to solve a crime). Dashiell Hammett appears (War Can be Murder by Mike Doogan) as a detective. The Confession, by Robert McKee, is a straightforward mystery while in Controlled Burn, by Scott Wolven, the protagonist is destroyed by guilt and all crime is off-stage. Death on Denial is comfortably clever. I particularly liked Joyce Carol Oates' The Skull, about a forensic sculptor in love with his Pygmalion, and After You've Gone (John Payton Cooke) about a suicidal cop and the intervention by a very strange suicide help line. The Jukebox (Doug Allyn) is a lovely piece set in 1960 but feels like Chandler era tale of the mob. Walter Mosely's Lavender feels like an excerp from a novel and is not his best work. Elmore Leonard makes an appearance with When the WOmen Come Out to Dance (it's got a nice twist but you expect that with Leonard). My hands down favorite is The Pickpocket by Christopher Cook, a tale that looks at the loss of honor and the pleasure of a well-honed skill -- tone and content blend beautifully in this Paris based tale.
The stories are generally well written and a few are gems. Connolley's introduction suggests that mysteries reassure, by bringing some sense to an increasingly senseless world. I couldn't find much support for that view in his selections: most of the time, the reader is left with a sad confirmation of what is wrong with us. Many of the stories have the dark view of noir fiction: personal failures in a failed world. I would have liked a slightly broader range of stories, and a couple reach for a mood they can't quite sustain (Sockdolager) or an improbable plot (Richard's Children) but most are satisfying and well said.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Melange of Mysteries Oct. 1 2003
By Natalie Harwood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A Mélange of Mysteries
This collection offers a smorgasbord of mystery stories as varied as the diversity of America itself. From "The Jukebox King", set in Detroit in the 60's to "The Adventure of the Agitated Actress", a delightful retake of Sherlock Holmes in London, the anthology offers the best of the year. And, as always, Joyce Carol Oates contributes a compelling, beautifully written and enigmatic short story. Worthwhile reading.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kudos to Penzler and Connelly Dec 17 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This may be the best collection of stories in the short history of the series. Although I found a few duds among the selections, the overall quality of the writing is significantly better than in most previous years. I attribute this improvement to the large number of stories from sources other than the obvious mystery magazines. Indeed, several of this year's stories are taken from literary magazines. The net result is that readers are treated to good writing as well as engaging crime stories. Kudos to series editor Otto Penzler and guest editor Michael Connelly for recognizing that good crime stories can be found in many literary outlets. I hope this is a trend that continues in future editions.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty solid Dec 18 2003
By adead_poet@hotmail.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This year's Best American Mystery Stories is a pretty good collection of stories. In fact, most of the stories are pretty good--we've all the usual suspects in this volume. I'll say the best two stories in the collection are by two Christophers, Chambers and Cook. This is a good collection to read.
2.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS THE BEST OF 2003??????? WOW!! COULDA FOOLED ME!! Dec 3 2013
By LENNY - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
No, I will NOT recommend this book to anyone!!
At least 50% of the stories were crude and rude.
Quite a few were loaded with lots of over-the-top
sex. I can actually say that NO story got a high
rating from me. DANIEL STASHOWER's story was
pretty good,,,,,the best???? I will donate this to Goodwill.
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