The Best American Mystery Stories 2020

Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. (Best American). Nov. 2020. 432p. ed. by ed. by C.J. Box & Otto Penzler. ISBN 9781328636102. pap. $16.99. M
Once again, mystery maven and “Best American” series editor Penzler brings a collection of the year’s best short-format mysteries to tantalize readers. This edition is guest-edited by Box (“Joe Pickett” series), and the stories cover a lot of ground, from “All This Distant Beauty,” Ryan David Jahn’s tale of human trafficking in Mexico; to a woman’s fight for freedom in Afghanistan in Jake Lithua’s “The Most Powerful Weapon”; to Lisa Morton’s old Hollywood mystery, “Whatever Happened to Lorna Winters?”; to an Appalachian gang of “Baddest Outlaws” run by little people in Rick McMahan’s story. Standouts include “The Surrogate Initiative,” Brian Cox’s thought-provoking exploration of future uses of artificial intelligence, and Jeffery Deaver’s “Security,” the story of the rise of a divisive politician. Also included is a lengthy list of “Other Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2019” and copious “Contributors’ Notes.”
VERDICT Whether readers enjoy snacking on bite-sized twisty mysteries or are looking for a new author to follow, this anthology delivers.
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