The Best American Mystery Stories 2010

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Overview

Best-selling novelist Lee Child edits this latest collection of the genre’s finest from the past year. Featuring “gritty tales told with panache,” this is a “must-read for anybody who cares about crime stories” (Booklist).

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Overview

Best-selling novelist Lee Child edits this latest collection of the genre’s finest from the past year. Featuring “gritty tales told with panache,” this is a “must-read for anybody who cares about crime stories” (Booklist).

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Fan Letter by Lee Child

They say the past is another country, and in my case it really was: provincial England at the end of the fifties and the start of the sixties, the last gasp of the post-war era, before it surrendered to the tectonic shift sparked by the Beatles. My family was neither rich nor poor, not that either condition had much meaning in a society with not much to buy and not much to lack. We accumulated toys at the rate of two a year: one on our birthdays, and one at Christmas. We had a big table radio (which we called "the wireless") in the dining room, and in the living room we had a black and white fishbowl television, full of glowing tubes, but there were only two channels, and they went off the air at ten in the evening, after playing the National Anthem, for which some families stood up, and sometimes we saw a double bill at the pictures on a Saturday morning, but apart from that we had no entertainment.

So we read books. As it happens I just saw some old research from that era which broke down reading habits by class (as so much was categorized in England at that time) and which showed that fully fifty percent of the middle class regarded reading as their main leisure activity. The figure for skilled workers was twenty-five percent, and even among laborers ten percent turned to books as a primary choice.

Not that we bought them. We used the library. Ours was housed in a leftover WW2 Nissen hut (the British version of a Quonset hut) which sat on a bombed-out lot behind a church. It had a low door and a unique warm, musty, dusty smell, which I think came partly from the worn floorboards and partly from the books themselves, of which there were not very many. I finished with the children's picture books by the time I was four, and had read all the chapter books by the time I was eight, and had read all the grown-up books by the time I was ten.

Not that I was unique - or even very bookish. I was one of the rough kids. We fought and stole and broke windows and walked miles to soccer games, where we fought some more. We were covered in scabs and scars. We had knives in our pockets - but we had books in our pockets too. Even the kids who couldn't read tried very hard to, because we all sensed there was more to life than the gray, pinched, post-war horizons seemed to offer. Traveling farther than we could walk in half a day was out of the question - but we could travel in our heads ... to Australia, Africa, America ... by sea, by air, on horseback, in helicopters, in submarines. Meeting people unlike ourselves was very rare ... but we could meet them on the page. For most of us, reading - and imagining, and dreaming - was as useful as breathing.

My parents were decent, dutiful people, and when my mother realized I had read everything the Nissen hut had to offer - most of it twice - she got me a library card for a bigger place the other side of the canal. I would head over there on a Friday afternoon after school and load up with the maximum allowed - six titles - which would make life bearable and get me through the week. Just. Which sounds ungrateful - my parents were doing their best, no question, but lively, energetic kids needed more than that time and place could offer. Once a year we went and spent a week in a trailer near the sea - no better or worse a vacation than anyone else got, for sure, but usually accompanied by lashing rain and biting cold and absolutely nothing to do.

The only thing that got me through one such week was Von Ryan's Express by David Westheimer. I loved that book. It was a WW2 prisoner-of-war story full of tension and suspense and twists and turns, but its biggest "reveal" was moral rather than physical - what at first looked like collaboration with the enemy turned out to be resistance and escape. I read it over and over that week and never forgot it.

Then almost forty years later, when my own writing career was picking up a head of steam, I got a fan letter signed by a David Westheimer. The handwriting was shaky, as if the guy was old. I wondered, could it be? I wrote back and asked, are you the David Westheimer? Turned out yes, it was. We started a correspondence that lasted until he died. I met him in person at a book signing I did in California, near his home, which gave me a chance to tell him how he had kept me sane in a rain-lashed trailer all those years ago. He said he had had the same kind of experience forty years before that. Now I look forward to writing a fan letter to a new author years from now ... and maybe hearing my books had once meant something special to him or her. Because that's what books do - they dig deeper, they mean more, they stick around forever.

Publishers Weekly
The 20 short stories in the 14th edition of this "best of" series offer a wider variety than some of its predecessors. Sherlockians who have not yet encountered Lyndsay Faye will be more than pleased by her pastiche, "The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness," which allows the sleuth to solve the mystery from an armchair. Jay Brandon makes clever use of his research into the history of San Antonio in "A Jury of His Peers," which centers on the Mexican Army's expulsion of all of the city's attorneys in 1842. Lynda Leidiger's "Tell Me" movingly portrays the horrific aftermath of a rape and attempted murder. Doug Alleyn's "An Early Christmas" proves that excellent traditional whodunits, which have been underrepresented in recent years, are still being written. Other contributors include Dennis Lehane, Phillip Margolin, and Jon Land. While this volume contains relatively few household names, the quality certainly doesn't suffer as a result. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"This collection is sure to please mystery fans as well as those who enjoy short stories"—Library Journal
"The 20 short stories in the 14th edition of this “best of” series offer a wider variety than some of its predecessors...While this volume contains relatively few household names, the quality certainly doesn’t suffer as a result."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review 
"Penzler’s foreword...in favor of an eclectic mix of tales that exhibit crime in all its varieties in every corner of the world—and then some."—Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Thriller author Child is the guest editor for this 14th installment in Otto Penzler's yearly compilation of the best American mystery stories. Published in calendar year 2009, the 20 selections encompass all aspects of mystery, not just the traditional whodunit crime stories, offer everything from Sherlock Holmes-style deduction to surprise endings, and range in tone from the gritty to the refined. The book is organized alphabetically by the author's last name, instead of any thematic or stylistic manner, so each story is radically different from the next. While some of the authors are well-known novelists, including the late Kurt Vonnegut and Gar Anthony Haywood, others are predominantly short story authors. But no matter their background, each has a unique voice for the genre. VERDICT This collection is sure to please mystery fans as well as those who enjoy short stories, but it will not be a good match for those seeking a traditional detective story. [Look for an interview with Penzler, plus his five future masters of noir, in the Sept. 16, 2010, edition of our BookSmack! enewsletter.—Ed.]—Elizabeth Nelson, UOP Lib., Des Plaines, IL
Kirkus Reviews

Guest editor Child chooses 20 atmospheric tales whose settings and crimes are all over the map in this 14th entry in Penzler's annual series.

Crime is everywhere. In teeming Campeche City on the Yucatán, a hit man catches up with a fugitive in Gary Alexander's "Charlie and the Pirates." In Jon Land's "Killing Time," another hitter hides in plain sight at a Connecticut boarding school. R.A. Allen's nomadic waiter, who could be named Robert, seeks sexual fulfillment on Florida's panhandle in "The Emerald Coast"; a Boston priest is accused of sexual misconduct in John Dufresne's "The Cross-Eyed Bear." Lyndsay Faye's Sherlock Holmes pastiche "The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness" takes Dr. Watson to the home of a San Franciscan fixated on the phantom Mexicans, while Gar Anthony Haywood's "The First Rule Is" explores the relationship between Los Angeles's haves and have-nots. Back on the East Coast, Dennis Lehane unfolds the tender story of a man, a dog and a murder in "Animal Rescue." Moving from North Dakota to Jersey does little to improve a call girl's luck in Allan Tucher's "Bismarck Rules." Russian-born Zhenya, whose father makes sexual exploitation a thriving business in Joseph Wallace's "Custom Sets," criss-crosses the country from Philadelphia to Fort Worth, seeking justice. Crime persists even beyond the grave, as the late Kurt Vonnegut's "Ed Luby's Key Club" proves.

Penzler's foreword makes no bones about spurning traditional whodunits in favor of an eclectic mix of tales that exhibit crime in all its varieties in every corner of the world—and then some.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547237466
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/5/2010
  • Series: Best American Mystery Stories Series
  • Pages: 402
  • Sales rank: 442,742
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lee Child

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.


LEE CHILD is the author of thirteen Jack Reacher thrillers, including the New York Times bestsellers Persuader , The Enemy , One Shot , The Hard Way , and #1 bestsellers Bad Luck and Trouble and Nothing to Lose . All his titles have been optioned for major motion pictures.

Biography

Lee Child was born in 1954 in Coventry, England, but spent his formative years in the nearby city of Birmingham. By coincidence he won a scholarship to the same high school that JRR Tolkien had attended. He went to law school in Sheffield, England, and after part-time work in the theater he joined Granada Television in Manchester for what turned out to be an eighteen-year career as a presentation director during British TV's "golden age." During his tenure his company made Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. But he was fired in 1995 at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars' worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series.

Killing Floor was an immediate success and launched the series which has grown in sales and impact with every new installment.

Lee has three homes —an apartment in Manhattan, a country house in the south of France, and whatever airplane cabin he happens to be in while traveling between the two. In the US he drives a supercharged Jaguar, which was built in Jaguar's Browns Lane plant, thirty yards from the hospital in which he was born.

Lee spends his spare time reading, listening to music, and watching the Yankees, Aston Villa, or Marseilles soccer. He is married with a grown-up daughter. He is tall and slim, despite an appalling diet and a refusal to exercise.

Good To Know

Lee Child is the author of sixteen Jack Reacher thrillers, including the New York Times bestsellers Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, The Hard Way, and #1 bestsellers Bad Luck and Trouble and Nothing to Lose. His debut, Killing Floor, won both the Anthony and the Barry awards for Best First Mystery, and The Enemy won both the Barry and Nero awards for Best Novel. Foreign rights in the Jack Reacher series have sold in forty territories. All titles have been optioned for major motion pictures.

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    1. Hometown:
      Birmingham, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Coventry, England
    1. Education:
      Sheffield University
    2. Website:

Interviews & Essays

The Fan Letter by Lee Child

They say the past is another country, and in my case it really was: provincial England at the end of the fifties and the start of the sixties, the last gasp of the post-war era, before it surrendered to the tectonic shift sparked by the Beatles. My family was neither rich nor poor, not that either condition had much meaning in a society with not much to buy and not much to lack. We accumulated toys at the rate of two a year: one on our birthdays, and one at Christmas. We had a big table radio (which we called "the wireless") in the dining room, and in the living room we had a black and white fishbowl television, full of glowing tubes, but there were only two channels, and they went off the air at ten in the evening, after playing the National Anthem, for which some families stood up, and sometimes we saw a double bill at the pictures on a Saturday morning, but apart from that we had no entertainment.

So we read books. As it happens I just saw some old research from that era which broke down reading habits by class (as so much was categorized in England at that time) and which showed that fully fifty percent of the middle class regarded reading as their main leisure activity. The figure for skilled workers was twenty-five percent, and even among laborers ten percent turned to books as a primary choice.

Not that we bought them. We used the library. Ours was housed in a leftover WW2 Nissen hut (the British version of a Quonset hut) which sat on a bombed-out lot behind a church. It had a low door and a unique warm, musty, dusty smell, which I think came partly from the worn floorboards and partly from the books themselves, of which there were not very many. I finished with the children's picture books by the time I was four, and had read all the chapter books by the time I was eight, and had read all the grown-up books by the time I was ten.

Not that I was unique - or even very bookish. I was one of the rough kids. We fought and stole and broke windows and walked miles to soccer games, where we fought some more. We were covered in scabs and scars. We had knives in our pockets - but we had books in our pockets too. Even the kids who couldn't read tried very hard to, because we all sensed there was more to life than the gray, pinched, post-war horizons seemed to offer. Traveling farther than we could walk in half a day was out of the question - but we could travel in our heads ... to Australia, Africa, America ... by sea, by air, on horseback, in helicopters, in submarines. Meeting people unlike ourselves was very rare ... but we could meet them on the page. For most of us, reading - and imagining, and dreaming - was as useful as breathing.

My parents were decent, dutiful people, and when my mother realized I had read everything the Nissen hut had to offer - most of it twice - she got me a library card for a bigger place the other side of the canal. I would head over there on a Friday afternoon after school and load up with the maximum allowed - six titles - which would make life bearable and get me through the week. Just. Which sounds ungrateful - my parents were doing their best, no question, but lively, energetic kids needed more than that time and place could offer. Once a year we went and spent a week in a trailer near the sea - no better or worse a vacation than anyone else got, for sure, but usually accompanied by lashing rain and biting cold and absolutely nothing to do.

The only thing that got me through one such week was Von Ryan's Express by David Westheimer. I loved that book. It was a WW2 prisoner-of-war story full of tension and suspense and twists and turns, but its biggest "reveal" was moral rather than physical - what at first looked like collaboration with the enemy turned out to be resistance and escape. I read it over and over that week and never forgot it.

Then almost forty years later, when my own writing career was picking up a head of steam, I got a fan letter signed by a David Westheimer. The handwriting was shaky, as if the guy was old. I wondered, could it be? I wrote back and asked, are you the David Westheimer? Turned out yes, it was. We started a correspondence that lasted until he died. I met him in person at a book signing I did in California, near his home, which gave me a chance to tell him how he had kept me sane in a rain-lashed trailer all those years ago. He said he had had the same kind of experience forty years before that. Now I look forward to writing a fan letter to a new author years from now ... and maybe hearing my books had once meant something special to him or her. Because that's what books do - they dig deeper, they mean more, they stick around forever.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2010

    An interesting and eclectic collection....

    'The Best American Mystery Stories 2010,' edited by Lee Child, contains an interesting mix. Twenty stories by authors as diverse as Dennis Lehane, Kurt Vonnegut, Doug Allyn, and Jay Brandon take varied and unexpected turns.

    Three, however, stand out. Jay Brandon's 'A Jury of His Peers,' based on a historical incident, recounts the return of lawyers, who had been kidnapped and held for ransom by Santa Ana's army, to San Antonio. When after a year or more away from their practices and loved ones, the lawyers return to reclaim what they left behind, it is no surprise that violence erupts.

    Phyllis Cohen's 'Designer Justice' also deals with the effects of violence; it depicts a violent crime and its unexpected aftermath.

    And 'Killing Time' by Jon Land introduces Mr. Beechum, middle school language arts teacher extraordinary, who is not only able to interest his charges in fiction, he is also able to protect them from the unforeseen.

    While no one reader will necessarily equally enjoy all the stories, there is enough variety to appeal to those who enjoy the genre. And the short story format is well suited to busy lifestyles.

    The bottom line: Five stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Hours Of Entertainment

    This is a great collection of short stories that should entertain any mystery fan. Within the mystery genre, this book offers a little bit from every subgenre, including suspense, police procedurals, espionage, and private detective. Not every story was a 5 star for me but that likely spoke more of personal preference than writing talent. This collection is a great way to discover new authors, many of whom also write full-length novels. Overall, I found the stories highly entertaining.

    ** I received this book as an early review copy from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, through NetGalley.com. **

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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