MYSTERY

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2023

Mariner Oct. 2023. 320p. ed. by Lisa Unger & Steph Cha. ISBN 9780063315815. pap. $18.99. M
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On the evidence of this collection, mystery and suspense short stories still thrive in the wake of COVID. All the stories in this collection are high-acceptable or better, while half of the 20 entries are superior. The best break free completely from the cliches of earlier crime and detective fiction, and most don’t depend on a private investigator or police officer to solve things. Only one does, Jess Walter’s startling original “Love Interest,” and it inverts all the traditional tropes in its surprising ending. “Mr. Filbert’s Classroom” by Adam Meyer is a superior piece of fantasy creeping in under the guise of a police investigation of a school shooting. No surprise, Walter Mosley’s “No Exit” and Joyce Carol Oates’s “Clues…” are radically different takes on the traditional stuff of crime and suspense fiction; Oates’s tale of a woman reflecting on her missing sister, whom she both loves and loathes, is breathtaking. There’s also a dead woman tied to a tree in a space station (Annie Reed’s “The Blood-Red Leaves of Autumn”), and parallel narratives of two ways reality could go in Margaret Randall’s “The Invitation.”
VERDICT Unger and Cha edit an exceptional selection that clearly shows crime and suspense fiction flourishing still. Mystery lovers will snatch it off the shelf.
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