Of the almost 600 mystery stories published in 1997, guest editor Sue Grafton has selected twenty of the finest for this installment of the acclaimed annual series. Authors range from the established (like Lawrence Block, Mary Higgins Clark, and Walter Mosley) to newcomers like David Ballard. All the tales are grounded in mystery fundamentals of crime and (usually) punishment, but each contains some edge or narrative experimentation that sets it apart from the flock. Block's "Keller on the Spot," for example, is a sardonic tale of a killer who saves the grandson of his next hit and winds up questioning his professional path. Stuart Kaminsky's entry, "Find Miriam," is a first-person narrative by Lew Fonesca, a detective who makes his living "finding people, asking questions, answering to nobody." In this case, however, the finding isn't the puzzle--the real puzzle is his client, a troubled husband whose wife has left him without an apparent motive. Throughout, Grafton's tastes run to the literary, and she is fascinated by the cathartic quality of each story. As she writes in her introduction: "Nowhere is iniquity, wrongdoing, and reparation more satisfying to behold than in the well-crafted yarns spun by the writers represented here. While we're plunged into the darkness by their skill and imagination, we're simultaneously reassured that we are safe... from ourselves." --Patrick O'Kelley
From Kirkus Reviews
paper 0-395-83585-2 Series editor Otto Penzler, who picked the 50 stories from which Grafton culled the 20 in this volume, has ranged far afield in search of what Grafton aptly calls crime stories, and the rewards are substantial. Scott Bartelss matter-of-fact heroin idyll first appeared in Tamaqua, Merrill Joan Gerber's tale of an ominously pesky fellow-alumnus in Chattahoochee Review, Steve Yarbrough's sorrowful rural reminiscence in Missouri Review, Dave Shaws droll confession of a chronic slip-and-fall artist in South Dakota Review, Joyce Carol Oatess tormented memoir of a faithless mother in Kenyon Review. Of the entries from more expected sources, the standouts are Stuart Kaminskys unexpectedly bleak quest for a missing wife, Peter Robinsons deceptively mellowed portrait of two old ladies sharing a cottage, and first-timer David Ballards remarkably assured spin on Roald Dahls classic Man from the Southas well as stories by Lawrence Block, John Lutz, and Donald E. Westlake that can also be found in Ed Gorman's rival The Year's 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories (p. 1240). Not the comprehensive yearbook of the genre Gorman produces, but this year, at least, a more rewarding collection of stories. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.