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In THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY, best-selling author Tony Hillerman and mystery expert Otto Penzler present an unparalleled treasury of American suspense fiction that every fan will cherish. Offering the finest examples from all reaches of the genre, this collection charts the mystery's eminent history from the turn-of-the-century puzzles of Futrelle, t In THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY, best-selling author Tony Hillerman and mystery expert Otto Penzler present an unparalleled treasury of American suspense fiction that every fan will cherish. Offering the finest examples from all reaches of the genre, this collection charts the mystery's eminent history from the turn-of-the-century puzzles of Futrelle, to the seminal pulp fiction of Hammett and Chandler, to the mystery story's rise to legitimacy in the popular mind, a trend that has benefited masterly writers like Westlake, Hunter, and Grafton. Nowhere else can readers find a more thorough, more engaging, more essential distillation of American crime fiction. Penzler, the Best American Mystery Stories series editor, and Hillerman winnowed this select group out of a thousand stories, drawing on sources as diverse as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Esquire, Collier's and The New Yorker. Giants of the genre abound -- Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Dashiell Hammett, Lawrence Block, Ellery Queen, Sara Paretsky, and others -- but the editors also unearthed gems by luminaries rarely found in suspense anthologies: William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Damon Runyon, Harlan Ellison, James Thurber, and Joyce Carol Oates. Mystery buffs and newcomers alike will delight in the thrilling stories and top-notch writing of a hundred years' worth of the finest suspense, crime, and mystery writing.


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In THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY, best-selling author Tony Hillerman and mystery expert Otto Penzler present an unparalleled treasury of American suspense fiction that every fan will cherish. Offering the finest examples from all reaches of the genre, this collection charts the mystery's eminent history from the turn-of-the-century puzzles of Futrelle, t In THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY, best-selling author Tony Hillerman and mystery expert Otto Penzler present an unparalleled treasury of American suspense fiction that every fan will cherish. Offering the finest examples from all reaches of the genre, this collection charts the mystery's eminent history from the turn-of-the-century puzzles of Futrelle, to the seminal pulp fiction of Hammett and Chandler, to the mystery story's rise to legitimacy in the popular mind, a trend that has benefited masterly writers like Westlake, Hunter, and Grafton. Nowhere else can readers find a more thorough, more engaging, more essential distillation of American crime fiction. Penzler, the Best American Mystery Stories series editor, and Hillerman winnowed this select group out of a thousand stories, drawing on sources as diverse as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Esquire, Collier's and The New Yorker. Giants of the genre abound -- Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Dashiell Hammett, Lawrence Block, Ellery Queen, Sara Paretsky, and others -- but the editors also unearthed gems by luminaries rarely found in suspense anthologies: William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Damon Runyon, Harlan Ellison, James Thurber, and Joyce Carol Oates. Mystery buffs and newcomers alike will delight in the thrilling stories and top-notch writing of a hundred years' worth of the finest suspense, crime, and mystery writing.

30 review for The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Werner

    July 1, 2012 Otto Penzler edits a long-running and well regarded annual anthology series called The Best American Mystery Stories, showcasing short fiction in the genre. This volume is a sort of spin-off of the series, collecting 46 of the "best" mystery tales (in the estimation of book editor Hillerman) produced by American writers in the 20th century. Not all of the 47 authors represented ("Ellery Queen" was actually the pen name of the team of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) are usually as July 1, 2012 Otto Penzler edits a long-running and well regarded annual anthology series called The Best American Mystery Stories, showcasing short fiction in the genre. This volume is a sort of spin-off of the series, collecting 46 of the "best" mystery tales (in the estimation of book editor Hillerman) produced by American writers in the 20th century. Not all of the 47 authors represented ("Ellery Queen" was actually the pen name of the team of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) are usually associated with the genre; several were more "literary" writers making a foray into the field, as Hillerman defines it. His definition, in fact, is broader than the conventional mystery; not all of the stories focus on the identification of a culprit or solution of a mystery, though most would fall under the broader rubric of crime fiction. The foreword by Penzler is mostly an explanation of the selection process, but Hillerman contributes a short but interesting introduction that's more substantive. Rather than the usual critical dichotomy between noir and traditional mysteries, he draws a conceptual distinction between stories that focus strictly on the solution of an intellectual puzzle, with as little distraction from the human element as possible, versus those that give equal or more attention to the same factors stressed in other types of fiction: character, relationships, moral choices, social issues, etc. (I have to confess to a preference for the latter.) The arrangement of the stories here is chronological; the date of publication is given for each one, and the appendix gives a short bio-critical note on each author. While killing time in Harrisonburg, VA's excellent public library recently, I started this read, as a change of pace from my usual supernatural fiction choices --the mystery genre, of course, being one I also like. Seven stories were ones I'd previously read, all of them well-done tales of their type. One, "The Problem of Cell 13" by Jacques Futrelle (who died in the sinking of the Titanic), and featuring his polymath series character Prof. Augustus S. F. X. Van Duesen, a.k.a. "The Thinking Machine," is one of the best examples of the pure intellectual puzzle type of mystery. In it, the professor accepts a challenge to escape from a maximum-security prison within one week, just to prove he can; although the reader is privy to many of "the Thinking Machine's" outward operations, the means of escape remains illusive until the final reveal. James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat" doesn't really involve crime at all, but it does involve a clever scheme, related with the author's usual wry situational humor. The often anthologized "Haircut" by Ring Lardner is a classic use of an unreliable narrator, as an ingenuous barber spins a tale of local gossip to his customer in which the reader will recognize a much darker import; while O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation" provides one of the more satisfying of his trademark surprise endings. Ellery Queen's "The Adventure of the President's Half Disme" is one of the best hidden treasure yarns I've had the pleasure of reading. And "The Homesick Buick" by John D. MacDonald and Willa Cather's "Paul's Case," are both stories I've commented on in reviews of other collections. As usual, I'm not reading these stories in order; but most of the nine stories I read in this go-around date from before 1935. All but two of these proved to be excellent. While Damon Runyon's "Sense of Humor" is technically well-crafted for effect, none of the characters are remotely likeable (even the narrator), and I didn't really give a care about the outcome, though I was curious enough to finish it. The worst of the bunch by far, though, is "The Murder," a sleazy piece of sadistic misogyny (with a topping of invidious ethnic stereotyping) that reflects very poorly on Steinbeck. But the other selections more than made up for these clunkers! My favorite in this group, surprisingly, was Dashiell Hammett's "The Gutting of Couffignal" --surprising because it has clear affinities to the noir tradition, which isn't my typical cup of tea, and plot points that recur four years later in The Maltese Falcon, a novel that got only two stars from me. But Hammett's handling of his material here is less cynical and to me much more appealing than in the novel, and his unnamed sleuth doesn't have Sam Spade's obnoxious edge. (He works for the Continental Detective Agency; though the note doesn't say so, I believe he may be the author's "Continental Op" character.) Another standout is Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers," which has a feminist subtext that makes a good antidote to the Steinbeck story. Although, IMO, one of the clues does not, on reflection, hold water, I also really liked Melville Davisson Post's "Naboth's Vineyard" (1916). Shirley Jackson's "The Possibility of Evil" and Henry Slesar's "The Day of the Execution" are two of the darkest selections in the bunch; a couple of the other stories feature protagonists who are actually the crooks in the story, rather than the detective --but just because they happen to be crooks doesn't necessarily mean you can't root for them. :-) I'll hope to read more in this book later this month! July 29, 2012 Out of the 11 stories (ranging in tone from tragic to humorous) that I read in this go-around, the majority were not, strictly speaking, "mysteries," as opposed to unpredictable stories with plot twists, though all could be called crime fiction. Several were by authors not usually associated with the genre, whose work I've sampled before (Buck, Faulkner, O'Connor, and King); others were by authors I hadn't read before, including one, Ben Ray Redman, whom I hadn't heard of until I opened this book. The only one of the 11 that proved less than satisfying was "An Error in Chemistry," which is definitely not on a par with Faulkner's best work in the short format, IMO. He pulls off a surprise ending --but there are details in the story that render that ending impossible, and the prose is often clumsy and confusing, especially in the dialogue (which I suspect has some careless attributions to the wrong speaker in at least one exchange!). If I'd been the editor, I'd have chosen "A Rose for Emily" over this one, hands down. But the other ten tales more than make up for that one. Pearl S. Buck departed from her usual Chinese setting in "Ransom" (1938) to tell a tale of the kidnapping of a toddler, which probably was influenced by the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping case, and which delivers both taut suspense and some serious thought content. Editor Hillerman spares us, in his Flannery O'Connor selection, from the very disturbing horror of the often-anthologized "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," opting instead for the quieter and less well known "The Comforts of Home," which still affords us quite a dark vision of the negative possibilities of human behavior. But the author's vision isn't about shocking us or preaching meaninglessness and despair; rather, it's about moral instruction in how to relate to our fellow humans --which sometimes is taught more effectively by negative than by positive examples. "Ouitters, Inc.," the Stephen King selection, packs quite a punch as well, and explores some serious philosophical ideas, such as whether or not the ends justify the means, and the nature and limits of human freedom and autonomy. It also has real social implications --though King may not have consciously thought about them-- for things like the modern quasi-totalitarian Nanny State, and about the shortcomings (as pointed out by C. S. Lewis decades ago) of the "therapeutic" approach to social control as opposed to the approach based on the traditional concept of justice. Sue Grafton basically created the modern genre character type of the tough, hard-boiled professional female sleuth, holding her own on what used to be all-male turf, with her iconic P.I. heroine Kinsey Milhone; and Sara Paretsky followed close on her heels with another popular pistol-packing woman sleuth, V. I. Warshawski. "The Parker Shotgun" and "Three-Dot Po," respectively, proved to be excellent introductions to both fictional ladies; V. I. in particular comes across as highly likeable, but neither of the two are abrasive or uncaring, and both get to solve their cases without gun-play (though in one of the stories, our heroine shows her mettle in a hand-to-hand fight). It's also worth noting that the Paretsky story is a particular treat for dog lovers; Three-Dot Po is a Golden retriever, who plays a big role in the plot. Versatile writer Wilbur Daniel Steele, in "Blue Murder" (1925) evokes the parochial, close-knit atmosphere of an early 20th-century New England mountain community, to tell a perfectly-crafted tale of rancorous family dynamics, repressed grievances, sibling rivalry and romantic jealousy, with a surprise ending hidden in plain sight. When I began reading Redman's "The Perfect Crime," I quickly recognized it as the source of a skit I saw as a teen on, I believe, Rod Serling's old TV series The Night Gallery, starring Vincent Price and James Gregory (though it differed in some details). That reduced the suspense, but ratcheted up the dread, and didn't detract a bit from the emotional wallop. It's difficult to say more without a spoiler, except that it's a dark tale indeed. I also had an introduction, in my teens, to a dramatic adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's "Rear Window," through the classic Hitchcock film with James Stewart and Grace Kelly (though again the story differs significantly in details --there is no counterpart to Kelly's character, for instance). It's an effective piece of suspense writing, and deduction under circumstances that both handicap and help our protagonist. My only quibbles are that one use of the telephone doesn't really make convincing sense with 1942-vintage technology, and the eye-rolling moment when the hero tells his black servant (intending it as a compliment) that "you're as close to being white as you'll ever be." :-( (To Woolrich's credit, though, he doesn't portray the black man as either stupid or cowardly.) Not being a noir fan, I didn't expect much from "The Baby in the Icebox," given the image conjured by the title, and the fact that it was penned by noir master James M. Cain. To my pleasant surprise, it proved to be one of my favorites in the collection so far! (No spoiler here either; but it is only fair to note that an old-fashioned icebox isn't air-tight, unlike modern refrigerators; so to readers in 1933, the title does NOT connote a death-trap in which an infant would be condemned to suffocation.) Finally, what happens when two would-be bank robbers tunnel into a bank vault --and find it occupied by the hostages of a gaggle of Uzi-wielding thugs, with the bank surrounded by cops? Well, if one of the pair is Donald E. Westlake's larcenous but not altogether unlikeable anti-hero John Dortmunder, the results are apt to prove more comic than tragic; and you can read all about it in "Too Many Crooks." With 19 more stories to go, there's still plenty to read in this collection. So, more next summer! July 14,2013 Of the 15 selections I read to finish out this book, all but two were by authors whose work was new to me (though, of course, I'd heard of several of them). After nearly finishing it, I realized I'd already read Harry Kemelman's "The Nine Mile Walk" some years ago, but it was worth refreshing my memory; it's an excellent tour de force of pure deductive reasoning. I'd read Last Summer by Evan Hunter (who was better known under one of his many pen names, Ed McBain) as a kid. His "First Offense" has something thematically in common with the latter novel, in that they both explore the dark mentality of violent and sociopathic young people; this story also exhibits the knowledge of police procedure that he would use to become the father of the "police procedural" subgenre. Thomas Hardy famously said words to the effect that if you're going to tell a story, it needs to be worth telling. James Crumley's "Hot Springs" fails miserably to meet that test; it's a concoction of moral nihilism, foul language, misogyny, anti-Christian bigotry, and graphic violence, without a single character I liked or cared anything about. (It could easily win pride of place, IMO, in any collection of the worst 20th-century crime fiction, but doesn't belong in one devoted to the genre's best. :-( ) Some of the same comments could be made about Dennis Lehane's "Running Out of Dog" (minus the bigotry), though it's not as violent and is more morbidly pessimistic than nihilistic. These were the only two stories here that I finished by skimming. The latter two stories exemplify noir, in the way I've always used the term. However, I liked (or at least could appreciate) the included tales by acknowledged noir masters Raymond Chandler ("Red Wind"), Ross Macdonald ("Gone Girl"), Lawrence Block ("By the Dawn's Early Light") and Stephen Greenleaf ("Iris"). True, in these stories the protagonists, and often other characters as well, give the impression that smart-alec mouths and chip-on-the-shoulder attitudes are job qualifications. But they do have a moral grounding and a genuine concern with the pursuit of justice and of decent dealing between human beings; they may pose ethical questions, but from the standpoint that ethics do matter. Coupled with my favorable reaction to the work of some of the other noir-associated authors mentioned above, this has led me to think that perhaps, instead of always asserting that these particular stories aren't "true noir," I should simply broaden my definition of noir, so that moral cynicism and nihilism isn't an essential element. That would leave a setting in milieus of very pervasive crime and corruption (on either side of the tracks), a focus on action rather than traditional detecting, and a "hard-boiled" tone as the hallmarks of the genre, and would still be a useful classification that identifies a cohesive body of fiction for comparison and contrast. But it would mean that I don't necessarily "dislike noir," but rather that I like some examples and dislike others, depending on their moral vision. Perhaps my favorite story in this batch was Jack Ritchie's "The Absence of Emily." But I liked or valued all of the other stories I read (some are too dark and grim to "like" in the conventional sense --"Iris" and "Poachers" being by far the darkest of these-- but they all teach us something about compassion, and all have at least some redeeming element of human kindness or decency). Many of the stories in this group are hard to discuss individually without including spoilers, and again not all of them really involve much in the way of actual detection. Some --"Iris," Michael Malone's "Red Clay," and Joe Gores' "Goodbye, Pops"-- are masterful character studies. Brendan Dubois' "The Dark Snow" is a look at the ugly dislike and distrust of outsiders that can warp the attitudes of some small, close-knit communities unused to getting new blood; it's set in rural New England, but I've seen the same thing in insular Midwestern towns. (The physical logistics of the resolution there don't, IMO, ring true on examination, and I'd say the same of a couple of physical and psychological key details in the Block story; but the narrative power of both carries you along without noticing that while you're reading these.) With themes like this, as well as studies of family and parent-child relationships, of ideal images vs. reality, of what matters in life and what doesn't, as well as the classic explorations of good and evil, right and wrong, these stories belie the dictum of critics that mere "genre" fiction, such as crime fiction, can never truly be serious fiction. (Fortunately, nobody told Dostoevsky. :-) ) In a few of these stories, you'll encounter some instances of loveless illicit sex (though no explicit sex), and many of the selections have some bad language; but I take this as simply a "warts-and-all" depiction of the social realities of the settings. Harlan Ellison's "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" (1973) was inspired by the earlier grisly stabbing murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City, in full view of a large number of onlookers who watched from their windows and did nothing; I started to read this and quickly discovered that it's a graphic description of an attack modeled on this one, with (apparently) a gruesome blow-by-blow account of the victim's long-drawn-out sufferings. The phrase "pornography of violence" comes to mind; this was one of four stories that I deliberately decided not to read. The other three were Oates' "Do With Me What You Will," Patricia Highsmith's "The Terrapin," and Jerome Weidman's "Good Man, Bad Man." Never having liked anything by Joyce Carol Oates that I've read, I couldn't see investing time in anything else that she wrote; and the editors' biocritical notes on Highsmith and Weidman suggested to me that there is absolutely nothing in their literary visions that I'd like (or appreciate!). Fans of some series detectives, such as Macdonald's Lew Archer, Block's Matt Scudder, and Greenleaf's Tanner (besides others noted above) will be glad to see that their favorite sleuths appear here. Seven of the stories here won the Edgar Award: "The Possibility of Evil," "Goodbye, Pops," "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," "The Absence of Emily," "By the Dawn's Early Light," "Red Clay," and "Poachers." My rating only takes account of the stories I actually read, not the ones I skipped; I felt that this was the only fair policy to adopt. Even the corpus that I read includes a few clunkers; but for an anthology of this size, and with the variety and quality of the other stories, I didn't feel that these detracted enough to cost the book any stars. In the main, this is a collection that justifies its title!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    As with most collections, this one had some ups and downs but for the most part it was a great selection of crime short stories. I tried to indicate my reaction to some of the stories in my status updates as I went along. I did like the chronological layout more than I had expected - it was interesting to see the progression of styles as well as the emergence of the strong female P.I.s in the 1980s. I said crime above rather than mystery since some, particularly the later stories, were not 'myste As with most collections, this one had some ups and downs but for the most part it was a great selection of crime short stories. I tried to indicate my reaction to some of the stories in my status updates as I went along. I did like the chronological layout more than I had expected - it was interesting to see the progression of styles as well as the emergence of the strong female P.I.s in the 1980s. I said crime above rather than mystery since some, particularly the later stories, were not 'mysteries' - they had no puzzle or whodunit aspect but were rather character studies of some mighty unpleasant characters. These stories were the ones I liked least but not because they were bad short stories, just because my tastes don't lie that way. I also didn't like a few of the very early ones which were mysteries but written in a style that didn't appeal to me (Melville Davisson Post's Uncle Abner story for example). Someone who doesn't read a lot of American mysteries might be surprised by some of the authors included here (Pearl Buck & Flannery O'Connor for example) while some other well-known mystery writers are missing (Erle Stanley Gardner for one). I was pleased to get my first introduction to some well-known authors I haven't gotten around to yet (Cornell Woolrich, Stephen King & Dennis Lehane to name 3) and to meet up with some old friends as well (James M. Cain, Sara Paretsky & Sue Grafton among others). There were also quite a few unfamiliar names to me as well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    Thanks Patty (like 9 years later)! What a great anthology. I liked every story in it except one or two, and I don't even feel like pointing those out, cuz what's the point. Favorites: "A Retrieved Reformation" by O. Henry "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell "The Gutting of Couffignal" by Dashiell Hammett (amazing story!) "The Moment of Decision" by Stanley Ellin (never even heard of him before) "The Parker Shotgun" by Sue Grafton "Too Many Crooks" by Donald Westlake (not what I was expecting) The la Thanks Patty (like 9 years later)! What a great anthology. I liked every story in it except one or two, and I don't even feel like pointing those out, cuz what's the point. Favorites: "A Retrieved Reformation" by O. Henry "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell "The Gutting of Couffignal" by Dashiell Hammett (amazing story!) "The Moment of Decision" by Stanley Ellin (never even heard of him before) "The Parker Shotgun" by Sue Grafton "Too Many Crooks" by Donald Westlake (not what I was expecting) The later stories weren't so much mysteries as crime stories, but, whatever, they were good, too!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Leonard

    The collection of American mystery and crime stories is an enjoyable read. I like Raymond Chandler's story a lot not only because of the twists in the plot but also of the atmosphere his writing creates. When I picked up the book, I was looking forward to reading "pure mystery" stories, but there are quite a few crime fiction in the collection. I recommend this for those interested in mystery and crime fiction. The collection of American mystery and crime stories is an enjoyable read. I like Raymond Chandler's story a lot not only because of the twists in the plot but also of the atmosphere his writing creates. When I picked up the book, I was looking forward to reading "pure mystery" stories, but there are quite a few crime fiction in the collection. I recommend this for those interested in mystery and crime fiction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ralph

    Reviews on stories from the book THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES of the CENTURY 1903 A Retrieved Reformation- This short story was centered on a character that had just gotten out of jail and started a new life but his old life as a robber makes things difficult. This was a very interesting story that played with the deeper emotions of human nature from my point of view. The language used was very insightful; I could picture everything that was happening. Also the ending was something that had m Reviews on stories from the book THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES of the CENTURY 1903 A Retrieved Reformation- This short story was centered on a character that had just gotten out of jail and started a new life but his old life as a robber makes things difficult. This was a very interesting story that played with the deeper emotions of human nature from my point of view. The language used was very insightful; I could picture everything that was happening. Also the ending was something that had my heart pounding at every moment, and it made me believe that people do get second chances. I would recommend this short story to any of my friends. 1928 The Perfect Crime- This short story was centered on a few characters who area having a conversation about the perfect murder and the ideals around it. Then all the sudden an actual murder happens. And well let me just say that some of the ideals that were being said at the beginning of the book about how to do it without being caught were being put in to play. This was very interesting short story it really allowed me to see into a detective mind. The language used in the short story didn’t really have imagery but it was something that I could really without much difficulty. I would recommend this short story to any of my friends. 1933 The Murder- This short story is about a character that gets into a dangerous sate of thinking and kills someone in a gory manner right in front of his wife. As I read this short story I was a bit confused about the language. But after I finished reading the story it was amazing. The perfect short story to read around Halloween. Of course the murder scene was interesting and about how almost every detail about this story, showed a great sense of imagery. Also it was a very sad ending with how the characters who saw the murder and the other characters reaction to this. I would recommend this short story to any of my friends. 1933 The baby in the ice box This story I can’t comment on because I really did not understand it. From the beginning it seem as though it jump straight in to the middle so I really didn’t know what was happening. So I would suggest reading this short story yourself to form an opinion. Overall from my perspective and the stories that I have read from this book, the language used is very impressive, the imagery that I could see was too. The short stories that I read were awesome too. And today I can say that if any other read took time out of there day to find and read a story from the book they too will greatly enjoy this. Thank you for reading this review for THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES of the CENTURY

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    First my review, then my rant: This 800-page collection had many gems. There were several stories I DNF because they bored me, but that is typical when faced with a monumental collection. Overall, 80% of the pieces were excellent and I individually gave them four or five stars so this rating is based on those. It must be extremely challenging to choose 46 of the best mystery shorts from an entire century, but I was not surprised by many of the featured authors. However, I was surprised by a coupl First my review, then my rant: This 800-page collection had many gems. There were several stories I DNF because they bored me, but that is typical when faced with a monumental collection. Overall, 80% of the pieces were excellent and I individually gave them four or five stars so this rating is based on those. It must be extremely challenging to choose 46 of the best mystery shorts from an entire century, but I was not surprised by many of the featured authors. However, I was surprised by a couple (John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor.) I’m a huge fan of the Best American Mystery Stories yearly publication so some of them I have read before. My three Favs: “The Problem of Cell 13” by the brilliant Jacques Futrelle and his character The Thinking Machine. “The Moment of Decision” by Stanley Ellin “Quitters, Inc.” by Stephen King Any mystery collection that has Raymond Chandler, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Pearl S. Buck, Jerome Weidman, and Dashiell Hammett is a winner for me. I was bothered that there were far more male authors than females and the collection noticeably failed to include them. Overall, this book was great fun, and for me, that’s what reading is all about. Now... my HUGE RANT I have about this collection: The use of racial slurs continues to make me sad and mad because the ignorant people - but not necessarily a whole lot of ignorant PUBLISHED authors - who use these words are still extremely prevalent in society today. I know it was common to use the N-word and other racial slurs in just over a handful of the stories - shockingly through the mid-1970s - where they stopped. Some of the authors threw them around nonchalantly because as writers it wasn’t yet un-PC. But I was not okay with that. At all! Surely the editors could have found a mere 46 stories from THE ENTIRE CENTURY that did not use these insulting and contemptuous slurs. Sadly, I know that was the way people spoke, and how the dialogue was written, and that the craft of writing should historically reflect what was then acceptable, but I still found it offensive and it made me uncomfortable - I’m Jewish and reading words like “kike”, “heeb”, and “Shylock” obviously offended. Did anyone else have a problem with this? I welcome feedback, although this may not be the appropriate forum for said feedback.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This was a beast of a book and it took me over a year to finish. I found myself getting distracted by classic novels, religious magazines, the occasional ubiquitous self-help, Hallmark Christmas movies, and curry recipes. Perusing in the thrift store, I figured I would be getting the best of the best by buying this book for two whole dollars. Forty-six stories selected from an entire century of work. If this anthology truly represents the best mystery stories ever then my journey through it conf This was a beast of a book and it took me over a year to finish. I found myself getting distracted by classic novels, religious magazines, the occasional ubiquitous self-help, Hallmark Christmas movies, and curry recipes. Perusing in the thrift store, I figured I would be getting the best of the best by buying this book for two whole dollars. Forty-six stories selected from an entire century of work. If this anthology truly represents the best mystery stories ever then my journey through it confirmed what I’ve long suspected: I’m not fan of the genre. I fear the quality of writing often suffers because of the sacrosanct of the plot. The whodunit phenomena functions like the special effects in an action movie: camouflaging an overused and stale plot. (Really, people, another car chase? Really?) To be fair, there were several stories I’d read before and thought worthy of the title: Paul’s Case by Willa Cather and A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell just to name a few. But other stories were as weird as Donnie Darko or shallow like James Bond. A few near the end keep me turning the pages (thank goodness) but the swearing and violence turned me off in the end. I wondered why A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson didn’t make the cut. Perhaps, I’m ignorant of what classifies as a mystery story. I’m clearly missing the deeper meaning here. It’s a mystery to me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    SeriouslyJerome

    For me, this redefined what constitutes a "mystery" story. I'm used to the hard crime, murder mysteries, but this tome included much more. Sometimes, after finishing a story, I was left scratching my head, thinking, "That was a mystery story?" But that's why I liked this. It was an excellent bathroom reader. I'd lend you my copy, but I doubt you'd want to barrow it now... :) For me, this redefined what constitutes a "mystery" story. I'm used to the hard crime, murder mysteries, but this tome included much more. Sometimes, after finishing a story, I was left scratching my head, thinking, "That was a mystery story?" But that's why I liked this. It was an excellent bathroom reader. I'd lend you my copy, but I doubt you'd want to barrow it now... :)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Fascinating compilation with gems from every decade. I find short stories the best way to discover and sample new writers. The Donald Westlake was hysterical. Patricia Highsmith is always brilliant in any form. Great and ambitious collection!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charles Fischer

    46 short stories that present a wide sampling of American crime fiction from 1900-2000. None of the stories were bad, though were a few disappointing - considering my expectations from the respective authors. There were a handful that I really liked and some I flat-out loved: -Shirley Jackson's "The Possibility of Evil," about a snooping, malicious old woman who knows all her neighbors secrets - Flannery O'Connor's "The Comforts of Home" about a Southern family who provides shelter for a town "sl 46 short stories that present a wide sampling of American crime fiction from 1900-2000. None of the stories were bad, though were a few disappointing - considering my expectations from the respective authors. There were a handful that I really liked and some I flat-out loved: -Shirley Jackson's "The Possibility of Evil," about a snooping, malicious old woman who knows all her neighbors secrets - Flannery O'Connor's "The Comforts of Home" about a Southern family who provides shelter for a town "slut," to disastrous ends - Stephen King's "Quitters, Inc." a story that resembled the movie The Game. In this story, a man hires an agency to help him quit smoking and then is, um... turned off by the means in which they go about it - Brendan DuBois's "The Dark Snow," about a hitman who settles down in a small-town with some rude, invasive townsfolk - James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat," about a mild-mannered, by-the-books office worker and his relationship with an overbearing colleague The entries by Willa Cather, Cornell Woolrich, Susan Glaspell, and Jacques Futrelle, among others, are some of the most recognized mystery short stories in existence, and still held up real well.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ebenmaessiger

    "A Retrieved Reformation," O. Henry (1905): 8 - a simple story, simply told. And that seems to be the beauty of it, as the directness of the style, and the sincerity of the payoff work in it's favor. There are many places to go with a story about a safe cracker, although having him need to relinquish his alibi in order to save a girl locked in the safe is a nicely elegant way of tying all of these things together. I'm mostly surprised by that simple style for a story more than 100 years old, al "A Retrieved Reformation," O. Henry (1905): 8 - a simple story, simply told. And that seems to be the beauty of it, as the directness of the style, and the sincerity of the payoff work in it's favor. There are many places to go with a story about a safe cracker, although having him need to relinquish his alibi in order to save a girl locked in the safe is a nicely elegant way of tying all of these things together. I'm mostly surprised by that simple style for a story more than 100 years old, although I can't tell if it's the author or the contemporary genre expectations they create such an anachronistic effect. "Paul's Case," by Willa Cather (1905): 8.25 - Well, there's the obvious pedantic question: in what way is this story a “mystery?” We have here a broody, moody tale of a broody moody teen, enamored with wealth and trappings of wealth and the lifestyles of the wealthy, albeit without any interest in doing the attendant work to access it [acting, business, etc.], until he eventually robs his place of employment, skips town to NYC , boards up in a ritzy hotel and spends lavishly, just for the sake of doing so, until he's found out and jumps in front of a train. There's never even the slightest inkling of a mystery plot -- save the only slightly delayed gratification on our knowledge of how exactly he acquires such spending cash himself (and, at that, we learn very matter of factly simply a paragraph later) -- and I’d guess that Cather herself would be hard pressed to declare whether she’s written anything like a mystery. Instead, what I’d imagine she thinks she’s written is a psychological portrait. Indeed, what success there is here largely lies in what success there is there. Because Paul is indeed an interesting case, especially in a literary sense. He’s taken by the glitz of the entertainment world, but nicely she notes that he actually has no interest in doing anything in it. He also thinks about suicide with a revolver first, but then dismisses it, and at that point it’s largely gone from the reader’s mind as well, given the narrative nature of these things. Nonetheless, the nice surprise when we find, ‘no, he’s just gonna do it jumping in front of a train.’ Strange. And in that sense successful, at least in the fact that it’s presented a compelling, if not convincing, image of a slightly off young man, although not exactly in the ways you might imagine. The smaller question: the death scene is simply a straight rip from Tolstoy though, no? It can’t have been conscious, or at least intended as a literary allusion [esp. as it serves no purpose within the story, i.e. he’s not trying to be ‘grand,’ as she admits he doesn’t read at all; and the plagiarism is otherwise not too impressive]. But, it’s not simply the event, but the description: slowing things down drastically in the moment, entering his thoughts, the immediate regret, the slightly alien ways of describing being hit by a train, the painless sort of confusion by Anna and Paul, and the understatedness of it all [I think her’s is that he is “dropping back into the immense design of things”]. That said, literary theft or not, I’m kind of in ~ come to think of it, there should be some sort of literary competition: given a common theme, write it in different ways. We all vote. Otherwise, the more interesting big question here revolves around class and capitalist critique. It’s too much to get into now, but one can’t help reading here without wondering how exactly she is targeting her critique. Im Nachhinein don’t think I that it is necessarily a critique of capitalism, especially as her acknowledgement of her lack of interest in any ‘honest’ labor is presented as damning evidence rather than than broader commentary. Given that he’s not poor -- and is easily from the upper middle class -- and that his ire is directed against the staid, earnest monotony (Calvin and Washington posters in his room) of the bourgeoisie, and his dreams wholly aristocratic, it seems instead to be half pooh-poohing the effects of this kind of glamourous display and half more intimate character study. I should maybe bump the score up a bit, given how much thought it does engender, even in spite of the clunkiness of the narrative development, even with the momentary lucidity of the big-picture prose writing. There’s also, I guess I should add, the possible homosexual undertones, which I’m always wary of highlighting off-the-cuff in these old stories, given that, when written by other, they’re just as likely as not to be channeled through clearly homophobic tropes: i.e. here Paul has a bad relationship with his Dad, no interest in women, the impossibility of life and the inevitability of tragic death, and is an aloof fop through and through, with a mincing demeanor and some sharply described affectations that unsettle/throw off those around him. I can’t, however, dismiss the short paragraph in which he meets another man from San Francisco, they enjoy the “night way of life” and return, with cold looks to each other, early in the morning from their adventures. So, there it is. "Iris," by Stephen Greenleaf (1984): 7.25 - There's no need to belabor my irritation at genre labels, but again, here we go. This seemed like it might've fit the noir collection better, although, interestingly, the reason it isn't probably has to do with the fact that it's just not good enough. There's obviously some darkness here -- and there's also an attempt to make the detective some hardened, flea-bitten, terse mystery man, although instead he comes off more as an idealistic simpleton, the nothingness of his persona more a problem than success of characterization -- but the story does little to dig into the reality of it, beyond simply stating clearly, and in dialogue what that darkness is. "Blind Man's Bluff," by Frederick Irving Anderson (1914): 6.5 - A trifle for its time, surely, this tale of Houdini hoodwinking some Gotham fatcats.

  12. 4 out of 5

    EuroHackie

    On the whole, this collection is pretty awful. Lots of inclusion of Literary Authors Slumming It, which to me does not constitute the best of any genre. There are some classic names (including Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, Sara Paretsky) but they are outnumbered by the disgusting entries from the likes of Harlan Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates, John Steinbeck, and Flannery O'Conner. My favorites from this collection: "The Problem of Cell 13" by Jacques Futrelle On the whole, this collection is pretty awful. Lots of inclusion of Literary Authors Slumming It, which to me does not constitute the best of any genre. There are some classic names (including Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, Sara Paretsky) but they are outnumbered by the disgusting entries from the likes of Harlan Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates, John Steinbeck, and Flannery O'Conner. My favorites from this collection: "The Problem of Cell 13" by Jacques Futrelle (1905) "The Baby in the Icebox" by James M. Cain (1933) "Red Wind" by Ramond Chandler (1938) - best in the whole collection, hands down "Rear Window" by Cornell Woolrich (1942) - yes, that "Rear Window" "The Adventure of the President's Half Disme" by Ellery Queen (1947) "The Homesick Buick" by John D. MacDonald (1950) "The Possibility of Evil" by Shirley Jackson (1965) "Too Many Crooks" by Donald E. Westlake (1989)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nihal Vrana

    This is an unreal collection. It is a pure joy to read and one of the few collections that you cannot say that any of the stories do not belong (I had one, two that I did not like much, but they were still very good stories). As a collection concept to go for different stories from different decades gives a nice overview of the evolution of the mystery genre and a kind of a snapshot of different times of American History and the mindset of the people of those eras. Ellin, Block and Westlake stori This is an unreal collection. It is a pure joy to read and one of the few collections that you cannot say that any of the stories do not belong (I had one, two that I did not like much, but they were still very good stories). As a collection concept to go for different stories from different decades gives a nice overview of the evolution of the mystery genre and a kind of a snapshot of different times of American History and the mindset of the people of those eras. Ellin, Block and Westlake stories were my favorites. It kinda ruins reading other compilations though, after reading master piece after master piece, I tried another collection which was decent actually but looked bland and amateurish compared to this one :)

  14. 4 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    A collection of American mystery & crime stories from 1900-1999. I liked these overall, even when I didn't care for the individual stories. I felt like this collection covered most of the different types of mystery stories of the period that I knew about. Although there were a few surprises, it felt like a lot of ground was covered, a lot of trends and time periods at least touched upon. Noir? Got some. Puzzlers? Ratiocination? Capers? Private detective? Yup, all that. Some of those stories were A collection of American mystery & crime stories from 1900-1999. I liked these overall, even when I didn't care for the individual stories. I felt like this collection covered most of the different types of mystery stories of the period that I knew about. Although there were a few surprises, it felt like a lot of ground was covered, a lot of trends and time periods at least touched upon. Noir? Got some. Puzzlers? Ratiocination? Capers? Private detective? Yup, all that. Some of those stories were not to my taste. And yet I'm glad to have had good examples of all them to sample. So, success.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Leew49

    Chronologically organized collection of 20th century mystery and detective fiction with authors' biographies in the back. Some of the writers are famous for mystery fiction, such as Chandler and Hammett; others are better known as mainstream writers, such as Pearl S Buck and O.Henry. Generally high quality writing with a few minor disappointments. Chronologically organized collection of 20th century mystery and detective fiction with authors' biographies in the back. Some of the writers are famous for mystery fiction, such as Chandler and Hammett; others are better known as mainstream writers, such as Pearl S Buck and O.Henry. Generally high quality writing with a few minor disappointments.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    I had just read The Best American Noir Stories of the Century, and this book had three or four of the same stories. One lesson: before Raymond Chandler, mystery short stories were very bad. There is even a bad story by Dashiell Hammett. The Chandler story is amazing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Stories to span the 20th century. I had only read one before. Incredible collection of authors, ranging from O. Henry and Raymond Chandler through Pearl Buck and many more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul Horstmann

    Not a bad anthology, although I am not sure of the criteria. Some famous, non-mystery authors are included, but with stories not truly representative of the genre.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Marez

    Interesting and varied.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Great collection. Some duplications with the Great American Noir edition.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J David Young

    Excellent collection of short stories. Surprised to find only a couple I had read before.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Colbert

    Finally finished! Had to start over because I started it 10 years ago; worth the reread! Intriguing mysteries that found me a whole new list of authors to try out.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hilary Bein

    Love,love love this book! Someone gave it to me as a gift and I didn't think I would like it as I have never been a huge mystery fan but these are classic, well written mind teasing and often humorous stories. Love,love love this book! Someone gave it to me as a gift and I didn't think I would like it as I have never been a huge mystery fan but these are classic, well written mind teasing and often humorous stories.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    I don't envy anyone tasked with assembling a book like this. You'd want to be original, but you couldn't skip the best things. You'd need to hit many of the major figures while not ignoring minor gems. You'd want to hit every flavor and node. Hillerman and Penzler did a fine job, selecting many moving and startling stories for the collection. Several made me laugh, some made me shiver, some stayed with me for days. At the same time, some seem out of place for tone, others for content. Rather than I don't envy anyone tasked with assembling a book like this. You'd want to be original, but you couldn't skip the best things. You'd need to hit many of the major figures while not ignoring minor gems. You'd want to hit every flavor and node. Hillerman and Penzler did a fine job, selecting many moving and startling stories for the collection. Several made me laugh, some made me shiver, some stayed with me for days. At the same time, some seem out of place for tone, others for content. Rather than discuss every story (there are 46, after all), I'll list my five favorite and the five most out of place. Let's start with the out-of-place ones: "The Comforts of Home" - Flannery O'Connor is a stark story, but isn't strictly a mystery, nor is it pleasant "Do with Me What You Will" by Joyce Carol Oates feels too ham-handed-- a story about something instead of being a story that makes you think about something "First Offense" by Evan Hunter has the same problem -- it's too "on the nose" "An Error in Chemistry" by William Faulkner - tries to be a clever mystery but falls flat. It's also written in a confusing way, revealing details in the wrong order. "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather feels like a rambling story that isn't really a mystery at all. The five best stories. I'd like to be clear -- there are many great stories in this collection. I'd have no trouble assembling a list of 10 instead of five. But five will do: "The Dark Snow" by Brendan DuBois seethes with the daily torments of modern life, and challenges the reader to rethink easy dichotomies of good and evil. "The Terrapin" by Patricia Highsmith is perhaps the most horrifying story of the book, followed in a close second by Harlan Ellison's "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" "The Catbird Seat" by James Thurber still holds as one of my favorite stories ever. A tale of petty bureaucracy and orderliness. "A Jury of her Peers" by Susan Glaspell brings the early 20th century feminism into bright relief, and works wonderfully. "The Moment of Decision" by Stanley Ellin prods our conscience, asking how we'd act if a harrowing moment presented itself. Overall, a very good read. The anthology takes a pretty broad view of what a "mystery" is, but it can be forgiving since this broad definition yielded so many gems.

  25. 5 out of 5

    TrumanCoyote

    A sizable disappointment. It would've been a good deal better had they sidestepped the impulse to include Nobel-Prize types and just stuck with the usual suspects (i.e., genre writers). As it is, far too much Literature intrudes upon these pages, with lamentable results. Even a few of the titles ("An Error in Chemistry," "The Possibility of Evil") reek a bit of the overly thought-out. One good story from the early stuff was Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers"--nicely droll and understated throughout A sizable disappointment. It would've been a good deal better had they sidestepped the impulse to include Nobel-Prize types and just stuck with the usual suspects (i.e., genre writers). As it is, far too much Literature intrudes upon these pages, with lamentable results. Even a few of the titles ("An Error in Chemistry," "The Possibility of Evil") reek a bit of the overly thought-out. One good story from the early stuff was Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers"--nicely droll and understated throughout (no doubt far more so than a lot of the commentary on that one ever since). And of course there is the wonderful "Rear Window." Arguably the best thing in this whole collection is Highsmith's "The Terrapin" (I can still see that turtle in its death throes!). And Westlake's "Too Many Crooks" was quite amusing indeed. "The Dark Snow" at least had a humorous finale, and "Red Clay" featured an unexpectedly (and nicely) uplifting one. But a lot of the other stuff was pretty dreary. Like the godawful pretentiousness of Flannery (Frippery?) O'Connor, featuring sentences like: "They seemed to mark an order of time that had nothing to do with the instants left to Thomas," or "The blast was like a sound meant to bring an end to evil in the world." Indeed, that sort of literary overreaching proved characteristic of much of the stuff here, especially toward the end. Probably the lamest story of all was "Hot Springs" by James Crumley. Now there's a guy who could run a clinic on How to Write Literary Bullshit: just throw in a bunch of overwrought and distracting metaphors, meanwhile keeping it all "down to earth" by adding some cuss-words and rednecks and tossing in a disgusting detail or two (like incest and boogers and stuff). "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" was the usual overblown Harlan Ellison crapola. Still, at least Joyce Carol Oates' contribution was merely pointless (instead of being both pointless and annoying as hell, as her stuff usually is). I was also irritated to find three stories originally published by Otto Penzler here (now where have I seen that name before?). Nothing like hawking your own product any way you can...seriously, the temptation to give this whole production two stars was considerable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris Cosci

    As the editors rightfully point out in the foreword and introduction, calling these stories the best of the century is very subjective. They even address the debate about whether some of these stories would qualify as "mystery" stories. Once these potential complaints are defused, all that's left to ask is: are they stories any good? Like any anthology, there's bound to be a few stories that don't resonate with the reader as strongly as the others. However, because of the careful selection from a As the editors rightfully point out in the foreword and introduction, calling these stories the best of the century is very subjective. They even address the debate about whether some of these stories would qualify as "mystery" stories. Once these potential complaints are defused, all that's left to ask is: are they stories any good? Like any anthology, there's bound to be a few stories that don't resonate with the reader as strongly as the others. However, because of the careful selection from a century's worth of material, the hit-to-miss ratio is in exceptional favor of the hits. It's interesting to note how some of the older stories hold their own against, if not succeed beyond, their modern counterparts. Jacques Futrelle's 1905 "The Problem of Cell 13" is as clever as anything else presented in this book. Some may be turned off by the harsher language and increased sexual tone of some of the later stories, but that's part of the appeal of such an anthology: you may not like everything, but others will and you never know when you'll discover a new author to enjoy or someone else will find one of your favorites. My personal favorites here were Futrelle's locked room classic, James Thurber's witty story of dealing with an annoying boss, Stanley Ellin's intriguing tale of making decisions, and Donald Westlake's humorous tale of a bank robbery gone wrong. There's no use dwelling on the weaker material. It's there. You'll find it and either like it or not. But rest assured, you'll find plenty to like in this excellent anthology.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    How could a 813 page book with 46 stories titled The Best American Mystery Stories Of the Century steer you wrong? It can’t. Sure you won’t agree with everything that is in and not in the book (that is part of the fun of Best of... collections) but with contributors like Lawrence Block, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, Sue Grafton, Dashiel Hammett, O. Henry, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Donald E. Westlake (still chuckling from his Dortmunder tale) and a host of others even th How could a 813 page book with 46 stories titled The Best American Mystery Stories Of the Century steer you wrong? It can’t. Sure you won’t agree with everything that is in and not in the book (that is part of the fun of Best of... collections) but with contributors like Lawrence Block, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, Sue Grafton, Dashiel Hammett, O. Henry, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Donald E. Westlake (still chuckling from his Dortmunder tale) and a host of others even the most hardened mystery fan will find something to like. This is truly the best.

  28. 4 out of 5

    meeners

    n impressively ambitious project, and i appreciated the variations in styles and plots and moods. (though i have to admit that it's those very variations that also irked me at times - felt too much like the editors were straining to "break free" of genre restraints, when really they didn't have to.) there were quite a few stories i didn't think really deserved the title, but i guess you could cite personal preferences as part of the reason. my favorites were the ones by cain (can't go wrong with n impressively ambitious project, and i appreciated the variations in styles and plots and moods. (though i have to admit that it's those very variations that also irked me at times - felt too much like the editors were straining to "break free" of genre restraints, when really they didn't have to.) there were quite a few stories i didn't think really deserved the title, but i guess you could cite personal preferences as part of the reason. my favorites were the ones by cain (can't go wrong with a title like "the baby in the icebox"), woolrich (teh suspense!!), jackson (creepy awesome old lady protagonist), westlake (master of the bumbling crook caper), and hammett (best last sentence....EVAR.) in fact, i'll always be eternally grateful to the editors for introducing me to hammett's "the gutting of couffignal," which is one of those stories that grabs onto you and never lets go once you've finished reading it. so great.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Denise Mullins

    What an amazing compilation of short stories by 20th Century writers! They range from the sweet naïveté of O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation", the noir of Raymond Chandler, the chilling aloofness generated by Joyce Carol Oates, the macabre quirkiness of Stephen King to the despairing brutality of Tom Franklin and Dennis Lehane. While they did not strike me as mysteries per se ( most stories were heavy on irony or suspense), every story was thoroughly entertaining and satisfying in its unique p What an amazing compilation of short stories by 20th Century writers! They range from the sweet naïveté of O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation", the noir of Raymond Chandler, the chilling aloofness generated by Joyce Carol Oates, the macabre quirkiness of Stephen King to the despairing brutality of Tom Franklin and Dennis Lehane. While they did not strike me as mysteries per se ( most stories were heavy on irony or suspense), every story was thoroughly entertaining and satisfying in its unique plot and deft development. The authors' ability to recreate authentic dialogue and mannerisms while reflecting the moral attitude of specific time periods allowed me to immerse myself into the mindset of the era, which was a real plus. Yet ultimately, the final pages left me with a feeling that Hillerman envisions a future of our American culture as one which is short of grace and long on moral ambiguity. I sincerely hope this is not the case.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Four stars for the collection because it includes such a variety of excellent stories, not all of which were written by "mystery authors," and many of which seem to stretch the definition of "mystery story." Yes, here you will of course find your Philip Marlowe, your Ellery Queen, your Kinsey Millhone; but you will also run across gems from Willa Cather, James Thurber, Pearl Buck, and other surprises. Obviously in any story collection, there will be variation in appeal among the entries. I'd awa Four stars for the collection because it includes such a variety of excellent stories, not all of which were written by "mystery authors," and many of which seem to stretch the definition of "mystery story." Yes, here you will of course find your Philip Marlowe, your Ellery Queen, your Kinsey Millhone; but you will also run across gems from Willa Cather, James Thurber, Pearl Buck, and other surprises. Obviously in any story collection, there will be variation in appeal among the entries. I'd award five stars to: "A Jury of Her Peers," Susan Glaspell 1917 "Red Wind," Raymond Chandler 1938 "Rear Window," Cornell Woolrich 1942 "The Moment of Decision," Stanley Ellin 1955 "The Day of the Execution," Henry Slesar 1957 "Quitters, Inc.," Stephen King 1978 "The Absence of Emily," Jack Ritchie 1981 "Too Many Crooks," Donald Westlake 1989

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