The Best American Mystery Stories 2007 Paperback – Oct 10 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The 11th volume in this consistently high-quality series features such household names as Joyce Carol Oates and Lawrence Block, but for the most part it's the lesser lights who shine brightest with superb short crime stories that evoke human passions and bring characters to life with a few well-chosen phrases or images. As series editor Otto Penzler again cautions in his foreword, few of the stories revolve on whodunit, the why having become more important in contemporary crime fiction. One of the best of the 20 selections is Chris Adrian's Stab, a chilling tale of childish cruelty, as witnessed by an autistic child. Block himself weighs in with the masterful Keller's Double Dribble, a story of double crosses, white-collar crime and basketball. Another standout is Brent Spencer's The True History, a gripping account of brutality and revenge set during the Texas War of Independence. Cozy and Agatha Christie fans won't find much to suit their particular tastes, but lovers of good writing should be delighted. (Oct.)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
STAB by Chris Adrian! This is my personal favorite -- the smartest most evocative piece I have ever seen from a child's pov. His story, john dufresne's and scott wolven's are disturbing and fresh crime stories from the dark side of humanity and shouldn't be missed! sophistocated readers will also take satisfaction in the entire collection, especially stories by the usual suspects: joyce carol oates, ridley pearson, laura lippman at her darkest. Fresh, original, dark writing here. Transportive stuff -- so transportive that the suspense might just keep you up at night, either that or the excellent caliber of writing!
Be prepared for some relative crudeness in language and crime and not much lightweight content where the story is really about the mystery. Not here.
Here are my favorites:
Keller's Double Dribble: masterful story of a hit man, with a creative twist.
T-Bird: poker-playing babe hatches a scam.
One True Love: prostitute / soccer mom deals with an untimely threat.
Stab: unusual mass murder up the food chain as told by the survivor of a pair of separated twins.
Solomon's Alley: sometimes the inner voice demands action.
Pinwheel and Meadowlands: two completely different stories that include horse racing. One is from the perspective of a cool dude who is part of some illegal activity and the other is from a nervous woman clueless about what will happen.
Queeny: quick, crisp story about danger while jogging.
Lucy Had a List: nothing will stop Lucy from achieving her goal to be a professional golfer.
That's nine of the 20. Some of the remainder fall into a pretty decent second tier, and a couple I didn't like seemed rather pointless or uninteresting, never clicking into gear. Some that didn't make my list were probably very well written, and I could understand their selection. "The True History" about the conflict between Texas and Mexico in the 1800s comes to mind. I simply didn't care for it. Sorry.
My favorite was T-Bird by John Bond, which did an excellent job portraying the life of a professional poker player and which deftly tied together the poker and the action. This was a reasonably interesting and well-written story, but its company kind of dragged it down.
Here are my individual reviews of each story:
Stab, by Chris Adrian. I gave up after the first few rather disgusting pages.
Solomon's Alley, by Robert Andrews. I lasted half-a-page, until those gratuitous profanites that mark the inept writer.
Keller's Double Dribble, by Lawrence Block. I lasted until the second page of this one, when a clumsy conversation between a customer and a waiter in an Indian restaurant ("You wish to sweat" "I wish to suffer" etc.) ruined it for me.
T-Bird, by John Bond. Powerful and well-written, particularly if you are interested in poker. A terrific evocation of the characters in a poker room.
A Season of Regret, James Lee Burke. I skimmed this one. Seemed unremarkable.
The Timing of Unfelt Smiles, by John DuFresne. Didn't make it past the disgusting first half-page. Seems like a typically inept job, confusing goriness with skill.
Gleason, by Louise Erdrich. Readable and not entirely uninteresting character study based on a Fargo scenario.
Chellini's Solution, by Jim Fusilli. I skipped this one, which seemed a bit overwrought based on the first couple of sentences.
Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You, by William Gay. One of those stories written in some odd diction, I lasted maybe a page.
Take the Man's Pay, by Robert Knightly. The first line of dialogue is "What's up wit' Charlie Chang?" and it did not appear to improve. Maybe a page before I gave up.
One True Love by Laura Lippman. Quit after pointless profanity in the first paragraph.
The Spot, by David Means. A "funny diction" story, which I gave up on within a page.
Rodney Valen's Second Life. Another "funny diction" story, interlaced with profanity - I don't think I made it to the end of the first incoherent paragraph.
Meadowlands, by Joyce Carol Oates. I could not believe this story used the word "sweetheart" in dialogue twice in the first page - I didn't last longer. Strange diction too.
Jakob Loomis, by Jason Ockert. I skimmed it, seemed somewhat pointlessly gory and unsubtle.
Queeny, by Ridley Pearson. Excellent first paragraph leading into a concise and well-written story that raises intriguing questions.
Lucy Had a List, by John Sandford. Lot of profanity in the few pages I made it through in this one.
The True History, by Brent Spencer. Seemed overwritten from the first paragraph, I didn't get past that.
Pinwheel, by Scott Wolven. Well-written, interesting plot, but a jejune finale.
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