Review: The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler

Confession #1 – I love mysteries.

Confession #2 – I love mystery short stories. Think about it, some of the best mysteries, Sherlock Holmes for example, are short stories.

A short story is more like a heady fling— intense, adventurous, emotionally charged, and, when I was young, embarrassingly quick.  Okay, forget that last one.  The best short stories, like those high-octane lovers, never fully leave you.  They burn, linger, haunt.  Some sneak up on you in a subtle way.  Others are like a punch in the gut–sudden, spontaneous.  They knock the wind out of you. (Harlan Coben in the Introduction)

Obviously, picking up The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 was a no-brainer for me. In a short story every word counts and the writers represented in this collection, from Joe R. Lansdale to Lawrence Block to Charles McCarry, are master story-tellers. The pages in this anthology are filled with heroes, villains, every sort of setting, every sort of crime, solutions, surprises, and great writing.

I will say that, with only a few exceptions like Rozan’s story, the selections are mostly on the darker side of mysteries. Cozy mystery fans will not find much here. And a lot I don’t actually consider mysteries, more crime stories, so don’t expect a batch of entirely traditional mysteries. That being said, I enjoyed the variety and have found several new to me authors I want to read more from.

I’ve written separate reviews for a few of the stories in the collection.

Here is a list of the other stories.

  • “Audacious” by Brock Adams
  • “Something Pretty, Something Beautiful” by Eric Barnes
  • “Who Stole My Monkey?” by David Corbett and Luis Alberto Urrea
  • “Sometimes a Hyena” by Loren D. Estleman
  • “What His Hands Had Been Waiting For” by Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin
  • “A Crime of Opportunity” by Ernest J. Finney
  • “Flying Solo” by Ed Gorman
  • “Destiny City” by James Grady
  • “The Hitter” by Chris F. Holm
  • “West of Nowhere” by Harry Hunsicker
  • “Baby Killer” by Richard Lange
  • “The Stars Are Falling” by Joe R. Lansdale
  • “The End of the String” by Charles McCarry
  • “Diamond Alley” by Dennis McFadden
  • “Heart Like a Balloon” by Andrew Riconda
  • “A Long Time Dead” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Overall it’s a great collection to dip in and out of when you’re looking for a good, but still short, read.

You can purchase The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 from Amazon or an Indie bookstore.

4 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery & Detective – Short Stories

Published October 4, 2011 by Mariner Books
432 pages

Book source: For review

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