cover image The Best American Mystery Stories 2019

The Best American Mystery Stories 2019

Edited by Jonathan Lethem. Mariner, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-328-63609-6

Guest editor Lethem infuses much-needed variety into the 23rd volume in Penzler’s annual best-of series. Rebecca McKanna’s marvelous “Interpreting American Gothic” finds an unlikely correspondence between a death row inmate and an art museum employee, who is transformed by the experience. In Amanda Rea’s haunting “Faint of Heart,” a carefully honed piece of perfection, two children are led from their backyard into a forest by an 15-year-old boy, who attempts to hang them with a homemade noose. For Nora, who finds one of the missing children, the ramifications of witnessing the trauma echo throughout her life. Tonya D. Price’s riveting “Payback” begins with a dog being chased down a country road by the reckless driver of a sports car; an act of reprisal from the narrator sets off a breathless chain of events demonstrating the extremes of human behavior. The anthology also features reliably strong stories from Joyce Carol Oates, Ron Rash, and Duane Swierczynski. Lethem’s wide-ranging sensibilities will be a welcome palate cleanse for fans clamoring for something different. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Assoc. (Oct.)