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The Best American Mystery Stories 2000

ISBN 0395939178 / 9780395939178 / 0-395-93917-8

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Book summary

"It has been said that jazz and the short story are the two American contributions to the world of art, and they do seem to have at least this one thing in common: both are engaged in by the practitioner primarily for the love of doing it," begins editor Donald E. Westlake in the introduction to The Best American Mystery Stories 2000. Over the last three years, this series has become an annually awaited delight in the October mystery lineup, with series editor Otto Penzler providing the backbeat and writers like Ed McBain, Sue Grafton, and Tony Hillerman providing the editorial riffs that make each volume unique. Here, Westlake has helped produce an appropriately dark collection with a few sardonic chops, like the late Shel Silverstein's "The Guilty Party" and Bentley Dadmun's "Annie's Dream."

The contributors are nicely balanced between big names like Jeffery Deaver and Dennis Lehane; short-story stalwarts like Barbara D'Amato, Tom Franklin, and Doug Allyn; and newcomers like Geary Danihy, whose first published story, "Jumping with Jim," adds a Conradian twist to the story mix. The nice thing about mystery short stories vis--vis novels is that they rarely sacrifice the elements of plot and motive to the whimsy of character development. These in particular use the classic themes well, from jealousy and revenge in Deaver's "Triangle" (where the murderer's identity is given a surprise fillip), D'Amato's "Motel 66," and Lehane's "Running Out of Dog," to professional rivalry in Edward Lee's "ICU" (the title of which is a very dark pun indeed), to sheer disgust in Allyn's graceful "Miracles! Happen!" and Robert Girardi's "The Defenestration of Aba Sid." If there is any weakness to the collection, it might be the preponderance of Southern and rural story settings, but that also helps give it the uniquely American flavor this series is known for. Think of it like a good Glenn Miller album: it may not push the envelope of the art, but it's got more than enough variety to keep any fan of American mystery entertained through more than one long autumn evening. --Barrie Trinkle [via]