The Best American Mystery Stories 2008

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Overview


“A must-read for anyone who cares about crime stories.”—Booklist

The award-winning author and Emmy-nominated television writer George Pelecanos serves as editor of the twelfth installment of this genre-expanding anthology, featuring twenty of the past year’s most enthralling, suspenseful, and slyly illuminating mystery stories.

A cut-and-dried case for a wily crime-scene reconstructionist is turned on its head in Michael Connelly’s “Mulholland Dive.” A terrible secret shared ...

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Overview


“A must-read for anyone who cares about crime stories.”—Booklist

The award-winning author and Emmy-nominated television writer George Pelecanos serves as editor of the twelfth installment of this genre-expanding anthology, featuring twenty of the past year’s most enthralling, suspenseful, and slyly illuminating mystery stories.

A cut-and-dried case for a wily crime-scene reconstructionist is turned on its head in Michael Connelly’s “Mulholland Dive.” A terrible secret shared between two childhood friends resurfaces decades later as one of them lies on her deathbed in Alice Munro’s masterful “Child’s Play.” James Lee Burke tells the haunting tale of a Hurricane Katrina evacuee who unexpectedly finds comfort from an unimaginable loss in “Mist.” And in Holly Goddard Jones’s “Proof of God,” a young man’s car is repeatedly vandalized as proof that someone knows about the truths he’d never willingly reveal.
As Pelecanos notes in his introduction, the twenty “original and unique voices” in this collection pay homage to the genre’s forebears by taking crime fiction into a thrilling new direction. “But make no mistake,” he says, “we are all standing on the shoulders of writers who came before us and left an indelible mark on literature through craftsmanship, care, and the desire to leave something of worth behind.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The top-notch 12th entry in this "best of" series offers superb writing from authors both well and little known. The nature of the 20 selections again lends support to those who think the series should be more accurately titled The Best American Crime Stories. As Pelecanos notes in the introduction, "none of these stories are puzzles, locked-room mysteries, or private detective tales." Some of the best have only an incidental connection to crime, as in the chance encounter with a robber in a hospital that triggers the decline of an elderly couple in a small New England town in Elizabeth Strout's "A Different Road." Likewise, Joyce Carol Oates's "The Blind Man's Sighted Daughters" focuses on the sacrifices made by an adult daughter caring for her aged father. Alice Munro's chilling "Child's Play" is another standout, with its casual but depressing depiction of the brutality children are capable of. Few will dispute Pelecanos's contention that several stories in the anthology would qualify for The Best American Short Stories from the same publisher. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The 12th annual edition of this anthology, whose general editor is Otto Penzler, collects 20 blue-ribbon entries, all dressed up in impeccable noir. In his introduction, Pelecanos calls the stories that make up the collection "wonderful," and it's true that the quality of the prose is unfailingly high. That's no surprise, for the names are stellar: James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, S.J. Rozan and, from outside the genre, Alice Munro and Joyce Carol Oates. These people can write. Unless you're a hardcore fan, 400 pages of unremitting, unrelenting noir can be daunting, particularly to worldviews on the fragile side. But you'll go a long way to find a story more moving and, yes, more unsettling than Hugh Sheehy's "The Invisibles," about what it means, and how it hurts, to be socially invisible. As the invisible 17-year-old heroine suggests, it's one of the ways serial killers are made. "Proof of God," Holly Goddard Jones's story about love gone disastrously wrong, manages to be at once ugly, brutal and deeply affecting. In Elizabeth Strout's poignant, painful "A Different Road," the aftermath of a hostage situation proves as destructive as the experience itself. And so it goes-a journey that will leave some readers delighted, others depressed, and most a little bit of both. An eminently worthwhile collection, though perhaps not for those prone to Weltschmerz.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618812677
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Series: Best American Mystery Stories Series
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

George Pelecanos

OTTO PENZLER is a renowned mystery editor, publisher, columnist, and owner of New York's The Mysterious Bookshop, the oldest and largest bookstores solely dedicated to mystery fiction. He has edited more than fifty crime-fiction anthologies.

Biography

Few writers have employed the mean streets of Washington, D.C. as effectively as George Pelecanos, the award-winning author of two acclaimed detective series and several standalone noirs of exceptional quality.

Pelecanos debuted in 1992, with A Firing Offense, a fast-paced crime novel that introduced Nick Stefanos, a Greek-American advertising executive for an electronics chain who is reluctantly drawn into investigative work when a stock boy at his company goes missing. By book's end, Nick has lost his job and applied for his P.I. license, paving the way for further (mis)adventures. Neverthless, the series has proved anything but predictable. Some books move forward in time to reveal Nick's sad descent into alcoholism; others flash back to investigate his family's past—with Nick relegated to cameo appearances in stories that span several generations and feature a cast of interrelated characters. Beloved by readers and critics alike, the Stefanos books cast unsparing light on a city tragically mired in crime, poverty, and racism.

In his Derek Strange and Terry Quinn series, Pelecanos delves further into the racial and cultural divide between white and black. Beginning with 2001's Right as Rain, these novels feature a "salt and pepper" team of ex-cops turned detectives who forge an uneasy friendship as they investigate cases in the blighted heart of D.C. The very model of noir, the stories are steeped in the violence, brutality, and despair of urban life, but the dynamic between the tough but sensitive Strange and his younger, more volatile partner offers a hopeful and humanizing counterbalance.

A distinguishing characteristic of Pelecanos's writing is an inclusion of musical references to create atmosphere, anchor period settings, and develop his characters' personalities. (His 2004 novel Hard Revolution, a prequel to the Strange/Quinn books, was packaged in limited quantity with a CD of '70s soul music.) Pelecanos has also published mysteries and thrillers, short fiction, reviews and essays, and screenplays for film and television—most notably HBO's superb urban procedural The Wire.

Good To Know

In our interview, Pelecanos shared some interesting anecdotes about past gigs:

"I began to work at my father's lunch counter in downtown D. C. when I was 11 years old, the summer after the riots of April 1968. It was the single most influential experience of my life. Everything I've written about since has seeds in that summer."

"Another good job I had was selling women's shoes, for obvious reasons. Writing for a living isn't bad, either. It beats digging ditches or washing dishes. I know, because I've done those things, too."

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Mystery Anthology

    This is the 2008 version of this annual compilation of the best mystery stories of the year. The series editor is Otto Penzler and each year has an individual editor. The editor for 2008 is George Pelecanos. This series has been running since 1997.

    In the 2008 edition, both well-known names in mystery and suspense as well as those less familiar to the reader are featured. Authors include James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Robert Ferrigno, Chuck Hogan, Rupert Holmes, Holly Goddard Jones, Peter Lasalle, Kyle Minor, Alice Munro, Thisbe Nissen,
    Joyce Carol Oates, Nathan Oates, Jas. R. Petrin, Scott Phillips, Stephen Rhodes, S.J. Rozan, Hugh Sheehy, Elizabeth Strout, Melissa Vanbeck and Scott Wolven.

    Every mystery reader can find a story represented here in the genre they like best. Victorian mysteries, hard-core detectives, puzzlers, offbeat mysteries; all are here. Elizabeth Strout's story will be recognized by those who later read her bestseller, Olive Kittridge, as it is a vignette from that book.

    My personal favorite was an offbeat mystery called Given Her History by Melissa Vanbeck. It is an offbeat story of a girl touched by death and taken in by a quirky woman who treats her much better than her family ever did. This book is recommended for lovers of short stories and mystery readers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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