The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021

Mysterious Pr. Sept. 2021. 451p. ed. by Lee Child & Otto Penzler. pap. ISBN 9781613162385. $16.95; ISBN 9781613162675. $25.95. M
An entertaining selection of the best mystery stories of 2020 (and one reprint by Ambrose Bierce), curated by best-selling thriller novelist Child (“Jack Reacher” series) and Penzler (publisher and proprietor of New York’s Mysterious Bookshop). The collection includes a constellation of best-selling authors and a handful of less-familiar names. Stories are a delicious mix of style and subgenre—there isn’t a weak link in the bunch. Michael Bracken’s “Blest Be the Ties That Bind” is about a newlywed parson threatened by the mob. When things get too hot in 1950s LA, the lines of justice get blurry in Tom Mead’s “Heatwave.” John Floyd’s “Biloxi Bound” features an unexpected antihero. Sue Grafton’s posthumously published story “If You Want Something Done Right,” with a widow plotting to kill her two-timing husband, is wickedly funny. James Lee Burke’s atmospheric “Harbor Lights” lingers long after reading, and Stephen King’s gleefully macabre entry “The Fifth Step” has a wonderful surprise ending. Although the stories represent a wide range of the mystery genre, the anthology is shockingly lacking in diversity. Of its 21 total stories, only six are written by women and none are by authors of color.
VERDICT Purchase for large collections where short story collections and anthologies are popular.
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