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The Best American Mystery Stories 1998
ISBN 0395835852 / 9780395835852 / 0-395-83585-2
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
List price $18.95
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Of the almost 600 mystery stories published in 1997, guest editor Sue Grafton has selected twenty of the finest for this installment of the acclaimed annual series. Authors range from the established (like Lawrence Block, Mary Higgins Clark, and Walter Mosley) to newcomers like David Ballard. All the tales are grounded in mystery fundamentals of crime and (usually) punishment, but each contains some edge or narrative experimentation that sets it apart from the flock. Block's "Keller on the Spot," for example, is a sardonic tale of a killer who saves the grandson of his next hit and winds up questioning his professional path. Stuart Kaminsky's entry, "Find Miriam," is a first-person narrative by Lew Fonesca, a detective who makes his living "finding people, asking questions, answering to nobody." In this case, however, the finding isn't the puzzle--the real puzzle is his client, a troubled husband whose wife has left him without an apparent motive. Throughout, Grafton's tastes run to the literary, and she is fascinated by the cathartic quality of each story. As she writes in her introduction: "Nowhere is iniquity, wrongdoing, and reparation more satisfying to behold than in the well-crafted yarns spun by the writers represented here. While we're plunged into the darkness by their skill and imagination, we're simultaneously reassured that we are safe... from ourselves." --Patrick O'Kelley [via]