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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.