cover image The Best American Mystery Stories 2017

The Best American Mystery Stories 2017

Edited by John Sandford. Mariner, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-544-94908-9

The 21st annual best-of volume in general editor Otto Penzler’s series demonstrates the care that went into selecting its 20 entries. Doug Allyn’s “Puncher’s Chance,” in which a man hopes to save his family from a thug, is a perfect illustration of how a gifted writer can bring readers into an unfamiliar world—here professional boxing—and combine that with deft characterizations and an intelligent plot within the confines of a short story. Geri Brightwell’s “Williamsville” deviates wickedly from its opening narrative pathway, in which a gun for hire in the Old West seeks the man his cuckolded client has paid him to kill. Charles John Harper’s hard-boiled yarn, “Lovers and Thieves,” will make fans of the subgenre hope that its PI lead, Darrow Nash, will walk the mean streets of L.A. again. In Brendan Dubois’s “The Man from Away,” another high point, a man whose wife is killed in an accident seeks his own form of justice, despite her harsh treatment of him. Fans of such notables as C.J. Box, Peter Straub, and Joyce Carol Oates chiefly known for their novels will be pleased to see how well they write at shorter length. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber. (Oct.)