The Best American Mystery Stories 2013

Lisa Scottoline, Author, Otto Penzler, Editor
Edited by Lisa Scottoline. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner, $14.95 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-544-03460-0
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Twenty stories—remarkable in their diversity—comprise this 17th installment of Penzler's annual anthology of the best American mystery stories. The plots and settings are more varied than a reader might expect, but what surprises is how literary many of these stories are, like the opening entry, "Smothered and Covered," by Tom Barlow, about a down-and-out guy who sees a young girl just before her mysterious death, an encounter that prompts reflection on the loss of his own daughter. The most literary of the bunch is Randall Silvis's "The Indian," about a small-town vendetta between a lowlife and his teenage best friend, though it's much too long. Michael Connelly supplies a terrific Harry Bosch story, "A Fine Mist of Blood," which reminds the reader of just how great a character Bosch can be—and the author's storytelling prowess. In "Drifter," Emily St. John Mandel tells the bizarre but compelling story of a young widow traveling in the wake of her husband's death, from the Arctic Circle to Venice, Italy, where she meets a very mysterious stranger. O'Neil De Noux, a New Orleans writer, offers an intriguing "AK" ("after Katrina") tale, "Misprision of Felony," about an investigation into the murder of a shopkeeper—a terrific setting, great prose, and an artful look at the sociology of crime. Hannah Tinti's "Bullet Number Two" is a noirish story set in the middle of nowhere in the southwest—a powerful and shocking narrative. The only element that's missing from the volume is a sense of what this selection says about the state of crime fiction in America. In his foreword, Penzler focuses on the changes that have occurred in the publishing world over the past 17 years, and guest editor Scottoline supplies a breezy, personal introduction, but neither offers much in the way of analysis or insight about the themes of contemporary crime fiction or where it might go in the future. (Oct.)
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