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The Best American Mystery Stories 2018 by…
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The Best American Mystery Stories 2018

by Louise Penny (Editor), Otto Penzler (Series editor)

Other authors: Louis Bayard (Contributor), Andrew Bourelle (Contributor), TC Boyle (Contributor), Michael Bracken (Contributor), James Lee Burke (Contributor)15 more, Lee Child (Contributor), Michael Connelly (Contributor), John M. Floyd (Contributor), David Edgerley Gates (Contributor), Charlaine Harris (Contributor), Rob Hart (Contributor), David H. Hendrickson (Contributor), Andrew Klavan (Contributor), Martin Limón (Contributor), Paul D. Marks (Contributor), Joyce Carol Oates (Contributor), Alan Orloff (Contributor), William Dylan Powell (Contributor), Scott Loring Sanders (Contributor), Brian Silverman (Contributor)

Series: The Best American Mystery Stories (2018), Best American (2018)

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What an entertaining collection this is! The stories cover a wide range of mystery/crime/suspense writing, with a fair bit of edge. Edited by Louise Penny from a collection assembled under the direction of Otto Penzler, the twenty stories, all published in the past year, first appeared in US crime magazines, in literary magazines, in themed anthologies, and in single-author collections by T.C. Boyle, Lee Child, Scott Loring Sanders).
Says editor Penny, “A great short story is like a great poem. Crystalline in clarity. Each word with purpose. Lean, muscular, graceful. Nothing wasted. A brilliant marriage of intellect, rational thought, and creativity.” This edition underscores her point on every page.
Though most of the stories run to about twenty pages, Lee Child, with “Too Much Time,” doubles that length. He meticulously describes how the redoubtable Jack Reacher digs himself in deeper and deeper with Maine police while all the time working on an unexpected (by this reader) solution to his precarious situation. Joyce Carol Oates also provides a near-novella with “Phantomwise: 1972,” about a naïve college coed who makes consistently bad choices and the men who exploit them.
Most of the stories take place in the good old US of A, from the sketchy surrounds of Paul Marks’s Venice Beach (“Windward”) to James Lee Burke’s Cajun country (“The Wild Side of Life”), though a few are set in more exotic climes: Africa in David H. Hendrickson’s Derringer-winning “Death in the Serengeti,” the tropical and fictional island of St. Pierre (“Breadfruit” by Brian Silverman), and the Republic of Korea (“PX Christmas” by Martin Limón).
The selected authors found clever and creative ways to deploy the staple characters of crime fiction—unfaithful wives (“Waiting on Joe” by Scott Loring Sanders), assassins (“Takeout” by Rob Hart) and serial killers (“All Our Yesterdays” by Andrew Klavan). They deal with classic crime situations too: trying to escape a difficult past (“Smoked” by Michael Bracken and “Gun Work” by John M. Floyd) or the long tail of a super-secret job (“Small Signs” by Charlaine Harris); prison breaks (“Cabin Fever” by David Edgerley Gates), and the double or is it triple? cross (“Y is for Yangchuan Lizard” by Andrew Bourelle and “Rule Number One” by Alan Orloff).
A couple of the scams were so deftly described that you may find yourself grinning with the vigilante surprise of Michael Connelly’s “The Third Panel” and the flim-flamming of an elderly man in TC Boyle’s “The Designee,” in which you must decide how complicit the elderly “victim” is. It’s the best story of his I’ve ever read. There’s also a thought-provoking twist in “Banana Triangle Six” by Louis Bayard.
This talented collection of authors fills their stories with great lines, though one of my favorites comes from “The Apex Predator,” by William Dylan Powell, wherein the main character claims he learned in Uncle Sam’s navy the “most useful tactical skill ever developed by humankind—and it’s not swimming or fighting or tying knots. It’s the art of bullshitting someone so you don’t get in trouble.”
If you’ve been glancing over the author names looking for (and finding) many that are familiar, you may also have noticed the near-absence of women authors. Joyce Carol Oates who has more than a hundred published books is not a surprise in this list, nor is Charlaine Harris, who’s been publishing mystery fiction since 1981. It’s a real mystery why no other accomplished, newer authors appear here. Women are somewhat more prominent in the list of “Other Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2017” at the back of the volume, where nearly a third are women (10 of 31).
Which publications brought these stories to light in the first place (and where you might find next year’s winner’s now)? Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine published four of the stories, Mystery Tribune (two), and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Fiction River, and Switchblade, one apiece. Also Level Best Books’ anthologies (Noir at the Salad Bar and Snowbound) produced a pair of them. ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Jan 15, 2019 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Penny, LouiseEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Penzler, OttoSeries editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayard, LouisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bourelle, AndrewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boyle, TCContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bracken, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burke, James LeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Child, LeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Connelly, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Floyd, John M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gates, David EdgerleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, CharlaineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hart, RobContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hendrickson, David H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klavan, AndrewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Limón, MartinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marks, Paul D.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oates, Joyce CarolContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Orloff, AlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Powell, William DylanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sanders, Scott LoringContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Silverman, BrianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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