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Best American Mystery Stories (2004)

By Janel | Books | February 8, 2010 | Comments ()

By Janel | Books | February 8, 2010 |


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Yes -- I know -- 2004 was 5 years ago, but taking the time to actually read the books on my shelf at home versus library books or the latest thriller -- that's a challenge for me. A few weeks ago, when stating that I needed to hit the library for more books, my boyfriend kindly reminded me that I had an overflowing shelf of books at home waiting for me to pick from. After that reminder, I pulled out some books that became my next stack to tackle. This book was the first on the stack.

I only recognized two (Stephen King & Joyce Carol Oates) of the 20 or so authors listed in the table of contents. That can either be a good or bad thing. The first story -- "Bet on Red" by Jeff Abbott -- was honestly the best story of the whole book. It captured my attention from the first paragraph and had an awesome twist at the end. The dialogue was witty and engaging. In Las Vegas, Sean, an enforcer for the mob, takes a bet that his victim -- Bobby -- can't pick up the red head at the bar. Bobby actually wins the bet, but then cannot be found the next morning when Sean is ready to whack him. Sean is approached by the same red head in the bar with an exchange -- $20 million dollars to lie to his boss and tell him that Bobby is dead. Sean hesitates, but then takes the deal with a twist. The red head will entice his boss and kill him so that Sean can take over the Las Vegas business.

The second story that I enjoyed was "All Though the House" by Christopher Coake. This story is told backwards chronologically. The first section -- Now -- sets the scene: a house in the woods where some bad memories happen; a lone policeman constantly patrols the area. The next section set in 1987 describes that lone policeman -- Sheriff Larry Thompkins -- setting fire to that same house in order to erase his grief and guilt. The next section finds an author -- Patricia Pike -- being taken through the crime scene by Larry Thompkins and the details of the murders that occurred within the house are explained. Skipping backwards to December 25, 1975, we see the crime scene the day after the murders from the Sheriff's eyes. He finds a note he gave to the one murder victim - Jenny - with whom he was having an affair. On that note his name is crossed out and her husband -- Wayne -- put his name there instead. The next section describes the mood in the house prior to murders by the killer's wife, Jenny. Jenny continues her reflection, but back in 1970, when Wayne -- her husband and the murderer -- first told her that he wanted to build a house for them on his family's property in the woods. The last section -- Then -- focuses on Larry and Wayne as kids playing the field. Wayne tells Larry that he wants to build a house there in the field one day.

Three other stories captured my interest throughout the book. "Smash & Grab" by Michael Knight is about a young girl who "falls in love" with the burglar who enters her house on New Year's Eve. "Low Tide" by Dick Lochte is about a bank teller who helps rob banks across the country, but falls in love with the security guard and ends up paying for it with her life. And finally, "Best Man Wins" by Frederick Waterman details how a husband gets back at his wife and her lover by just implying the food he cooked was poisonous.

Overall there were some mediocre stories within the collection -- but I wouldn't say that 2004 was the best year for short story mysteries.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Janel's reviews, check out her blog Bibliophibian.


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