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Book Title: The Best American Mystery Stories 2014|
The author of the book: Otto Penzler
ISBN 13: 9780544032576
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 329 KB
Edition: Mariner Books
Date of issue: October 7th 2014
Read full description of the books The Best American Mystery Stories 2014:This is the second volume of The Best American Mystery Stories that I've read, and the same holds true: mystery is a vague term that encompasses a lot of types of stories. That's at least as chosen by Laura Lippman, this year's editor. None of these stories are the "whodunit" variety, which kind of eliminates the word "mystery" from the picture, but they are about crime and the darkness of the soul.
My favorite stories were those that had a noir edge to them, or those that were funny, or both. What I did not expect was a posthumous story by Joseph Heller, the author of my favorite novel, Catch-22, and a very funny man. He wrote a story called "Almost Like Christmas" that has no laughs at all, and is brutal in its presentation. Another tough story is "Going Across Jordan," by James Lee Burke, a very well-established crime author, about itinerant workers in the 1950s. He opens his story with the following: "Who would believe somebody could drive a car across the bottom of ancient glacial lake at night, the high beams tunneling in electrified shafts of yellow smoke under the surface, but I stood on the bank and saw it, my head still throbbing from a couple of licks I took when I was on the ground and couldn't protect myself."
Continuing with noir, how can you beat an opening like Ernest Finney's "The Wrecker": "I'm sitting at the bar in the semigloom of the Silver Dollar, as far away as I can get from the loud music. A babe comes through the door. It's still before nine; too early for anyone else to eyeing the sign taped to the bar mirror: NOBODY'S UGLY AT 2 A.M." Unfortunately, the story doesn't match that socko start.
Other authors from outside the mystery genre participate. Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Proulx takes us to the founding of Quebec in "Rough Deeds," which showcases chicanery in the logging business and has a grisly end. Roxane Gay has "I Will Follow You," which is about twin sisters who are very close, even though one marries a no-goodnick. The story is both menacing and a tad funny, such as when the narrator describes her brother-in-law, Darryl: "Carolina married when she was nineteen. Darryl, her husband, was a decade older, but he had a full head of hair and she thought that meant something." Or, "Darryl worked nights managing a small airfield on the edge of town. It was a mystery how he had fallen into the job. He knew little about managing, aviation, or work."
Also in the funny vein, there is Nancy Pauline Simpson's "Festered Wounds," set in a small Southern town in the year 1900, with a sheriff investigating the death of a man who took a header from a railroad bridge. It's full of cornpone humor like saying of the undertaker, "Penrose could make a ninety-year-old scrofula victim look like a Floradora girl.
Also set at the turn of the century is "The Covering Storm," by David H. Ingram, which has a man planning to commit the perfect murder, but he's undone by something unforeseen: the devastating hurricane that pummeled Galveston, Texas.
Two very good stories concern fathers and sons. Russell Banks' "Former Marine" has the title character spending his retirement robbing banks, but his son is a policeman. An even better story is "Pleasant Grove" by Scott Loring Sanders, which also is about a bank robbery and a father and a son, and is very, very dark: "The events of those few days, of the truck crashing, of him taking the money, of finding out the man's identity, of then blowing the guts out that same man, his father, of dragging him through the snow and burying him him in a makeshift grave, all of those events had haunted him." Any story that contains the words "makeshift grave" is bound to be dark.
Perhaps the best story is one that really can't qualify as a mystery, or even a crime thriller, but it's here. That's "Snuff," by Jodi Angel. It's about a teenage boy who is over at some friend's house with some boys watching what they think is a snuff movie. He ends up needing a ride, so calls his sister, who picks him up and hits a deer. It's dead, but it's pregnant, and she tries to deliver the fawn. It's a great story that connects on a number of levels. But I do believe there has never an authenticated snuff film ever found by law enforcement.
So, this is a pretty good collection. I can't go without mentioning Charlaine Harris, the author of the novels that True Blood is based on, with "Small Kingdoms," about avenging teachers. As a teacher, I can relate.
Read information about the authorOtto Penzler is an editor of mystery fiction in the United States, and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, where he lives.
Otto Penzler founded The Mysteriour Press in 1975 and was the publisher of The Armchair Detective, the Edgar-winning quarterly journal devoted to the study of mystery and suspense fiction, for seventeen years.
Penzler has won two Edgar Awards, for The Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection in 1977, and The Lineup in 2010. The Mystery Writers of America awarded him the prestigious Ellery Queen Award in 1994, and the Raven--the group's highest non-writing award--in 2003.
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