The Best American Mystery Stories 2009 Paperback – Oct 8 2009
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Not a single one of the 20 reprints here is a dud. Standouts among the stories produced by mystery veterans are James Lee Burke’s parable of a prison-camp inmate who refuses to box ("Big Midnight Special"); Chuck Hogan’s account of the hamburger that will be a condemned convict’s last meal ("Two Thousand Volrs"); and Kristine Kathrine Rusch’s historical fantasy of a killer whose methodical execution of FBI agents reaches all the way to the top ("G-Men"). But there’s excellent, if more formulaic work by Clark Howard, Rob Kantner, Robert McClure and Michael Connelly. "Free Radicals," Alice Munro’s unexpected riff on a classic Agatha Christie story, tops the literary side, which provides a good deal more variety: Tom Bissell’s portrait of a modern superhero ("My Interview with the Avenger"); Ron Carlson’s tale of a Guatemalan baseball phenom whose fate is fatally linked to his scout’s ("Beanball"); M.M.M. Hayes’s depiction of a crusty old gentleman’s unusual strategies for coping with change and death ("Meantime, Quentin Ghlee"); Randy Rohn’s droll, creepy account of "The Man Who Fell in Love with the Stump of a Tree"; Jonathan Tel’s story about a trucker whose life is upended by an accusation of rape and murder ("Bola de la Fortuna"); and series favorite Joyce Carol Oates’ "Dear Husband," the feverish confession of a dying family-killer. N.J. Ayres, Alafair Burke, David Corbett, Nic Pizzolatto, Gary Craig Powell and Vu Tran round out the diverse list.
A choice mix of solid work from mystery specialists and one-shots from authors who’d never want to be identified with the genre.
Like previous anthologies in this Ã¢â‚¬Å“best ofÃ¢â‚¬â? series, the impressive 13th volume favors crime stories over whodunits. As series editor Otto Penzler notes in his foreword, Ã¢â‚¬Å“it has become increasingly difficult to find... a new murder method, or an original way to hide a vital clueÃ¢â‚¬â? (though some may wonder why Deaver passed over Hal WhiteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s impossible crime puzzler, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Murder at the Fall Festival,Ã¢â‚¬â? listed in the appendix of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Other Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2008Ã¢â‚¬â?). Readers interested in psychology will be more than satisfied by such tales as Joyce Carol OatesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Dear Husband,Ã¢â‚¬â? a heartrending first-person account of a mother who slaughtered her children, and Tom BissellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“My Interview with the Avenger,Ã¢â‚¬â? about a vigilante superhero. As always, part of the pleasure derives from exposure to writers who have yet to gain the acclaim they deserve, such as Randy Rohn (Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Man Who Fell in Love with the Stump of a TreeÃ¢â‚¬â?) and Jonathan Tel (Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bola de la FortunaÃ¢â‚¬â?). (Oct.)
About the Author
OTTO PENZLER is a renowned mystery editor, publisher, columnist, and owner of New York's The Mysterious Bookshop, the oldest and largest bookstore solely dedicated to mystery fiction. He has edited more than fifty crime-fiction anthologies.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In this case, Suspense Master Jeff Deaver's picks are colorful, pulse-pounding and, as required of any crime novel, WICKED-TWISTED. Page-turners, all. My all-time favorite Joyce Carol Oates never lets me down for a romp through the derelict mind -- and check out this one by lesser known mistress of mystery, James Lee Burke's daughter, Alafair Burke. BUT BUYER BEWARE: If you have a weak heart, make sure you get your aspirin handy and have your defibrillator on alert.
I hesitate to be blunt about this but I must post one little note about the current definition of "MYSTERY" before some Agatha Christie fan comes and posts a critique about this outstanding CRIME anthology and tries to deceive you into thinking it's unworthy.
This entire series a called "Best American Mystery Stories" because - NEWS FLASH - "mystery" has become the official umbrella catch-all word for crime stories!!!!! Thus, in a contemporary mystery story, order is not always restored after a murder; the characters are often psychologically disturbing if not downright DEVIANT - hello? it's a murder mystery!; and the social mores of the protagonists are not exactly mores to be desired!
In other words, these stories are written by the best living crime writers working in today's literary market. As a result, the stories run the gamut. They cover several genres within the overriding genre of "mystery fiction," which is to say they are often hardboiled, sometimes noir - but always suspenseful, prize-worthy, and thought-provoking. Think Doestoevsky, Patricia Highsmith, Cornell Woolrich, etc.
With all due respect, let this be a lesson to you. Take it with a grain of salt (because Series Editor Otto Penzler has published many cozy writers with his Mysterious Press imprint) but for kicks, he is quick to point out that the only "mysteries" he likes that have a cat detective or a recipe in them is where the cat is IN the recipe. ;-)
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