Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Review: The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2022

While I told you about this book back in late August, today is publication day so I am reminding you of my review.


The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2022 is a roller coaster ride for the reader as some of the stories selected are very good and highly entertaining. Others, not so much. The digital arc via NetGalley that I received also had a very high number of formatting issues that got steadily worse as I worked my way through the read. That problem, far worse than most digital ARCs I get via NetGalley and elsewhere, certainly did not help with reading enjoyment

As the foreword by Otto Penzler makes abundantly clear, the tales that appear in the book are primarily his choices. Michele Slung culls the stories that are believed to have no chance as well as the nonmysteries, then the remaining pile of several hundred is read by Mr. Penzler. He culls that pile to fewer than fifty tales and turns that batch over to the guest editor. In this case, noted author Sara Paretsky, who selected the final twenty stories that are included in this anthology. Mr. Penzler goes on in his foreword to explain that his definition of a mystery is wide and includes thrillers, crime fiction, and suspense as well.

After some more remarks, including how to be considered for next year, Sara Paretsky comes next with her introduction. She addresses the old axiom of “write what you know” and spins it to how those who are good at writing know emotions. Everything else is research. She also points out that language as well as reader perception of authors and stories changes over time as does the world they inhibit and the tales that come from that world.

Then it is finally on to the stories. There are twenty short stories in the book, split evenly between men and women. Each story has a short background explanation to how it came to be and there is a short author bio as well. The stories in the book are arranged by author’s last name.

That means Doug Allyn gets the ball rolling with “Kiss Of Life.” Attorney Ray Beaumont is at the beach on Lake Michigan enjoying the mid July day with his lady friend, Marcy. They soon realize something is wrong as a woman nearby has walked out into the water and is apparently attempting to commit suicide. Ray pulls her out of the water, performs CPR, and is soon at the local hospital dealing with the strange situation his latest client finds herself in as she is still very much among the living.

Colin Barrett’s “A Shooting In Rathreedane” follows where Sergeant Jackie Noonan and the young officer, Pronsius Swift, are called out for a shooting at Bertie Creedon’s place. He has reported the shooting at his farm and claims he was trying to warn the person off as he was in fear of his life. But, instead of missing him, the warning shot hit him and the intruder is a bad way. Swift and Noonan go out to assist and investigate.

White Chocolate by Jerome Charyn is a tale of small-town life where nearly everyone is related to each other. For a local attorney, that includes his mother who apparently just stole a child from the local hospital. While his mom may run the town and everyone in it, she may have gone too far this time, even with a lawyer in the family.

There may be a killer on Catalina. L. A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Searcy saw the guy come off the ferry and wondered about him as the man seemed to be suspicious. After a conversation with FBI Agent Alex Cohen, Searcy thinks he might be the target and thinks it might be because of a trial starting in a few days. Things get complicated fast in “Avalon” by Michael Connelly.

It is a book club with a twist in “Better Austens” by Susan Firth. The ladies do read books as part of their book club. That is not all they do in a not-too-distant future where executions are privatized. This group of mothers provides the executions in the local area and do it while showing compassion to the legally condemned. A hard job becomes way harder when she realizes she knows the man she is supposed to execute from back when he was a little child playing with her own son.

Tom Larsen takes readers to Manta, Ecuador, in “El Cuerpo En El Barril where Sergeant Orlando Ortega has a new boss. Captain Juan Delgado is a big man and is not happy to be here in Manta where, as befits a coastal city, there is more than ample heat and humidity. Sergeant Delgado is not one to play politics, take small bribes, or go along to get along which is why he has been made the problem of another commander who is now stuck with him. Delgado is good at closing cases and soon will be working the case of a death near the local church.

The plan was to run away to Hawaii. Now, all the money they had in Bitcoin is gone in “October In Kauai” by Sean Marciniak. 15 and being abused by his cop dad, the money was a way out of a hellish life for him as well as Kayla and a friend of theirs. With the money gone, it is time for a new and far more dangerous plan.

Derek has done it. Again. Not something minor league stupid as he has frequently done before, but this time, something major league stupid. The money was supposed to last them for their stay down in Baja. Instead, all of the money, every last cent, is gone. Not only did Derek lose it all by gambling, he put them both in a bad situation as “Gun Running On Vacation” by Stefon Mears begins.

It was supposed to be an easy drug transaction a “Sleigh Bells For The Hayride” by Keith Lee Morris begins. He was waiting in the breezeway of some crappy condo complex courtyard. Good thing he knowns sign language even though he has been out of practice using it as the woman who was supposed to pay him for the drugs is deaf. She also does not seem to really want the drugs. She has a problem and a plan. He needs the money, so the drug sale is going to have to wait.

Red McClendon has not been facing the truth about his own son for a long time now. After all, on the surface, it appears that they are a perfect family. Not everything is as it appears in “Violent Devotion” by Gwen Mullins.

Dr. Meyer is well known for his hypnotism skills. He is not known for his secondary job in “Black Knight” by Jo Nesbo. That secondary job is soon ongoing to bring unwanted attention and a clear threat. While everything appears normal in the busy city of Milan, he is being toyed with in an elaborate game that befits his acknowledged skill in his secondary occupation.

When you are very used to taking one road from here to there the usual way all the time, a detour can cause all sorts of issues. It could also get you killed in “Detour” by Joyce Carol Oates. Abigail isn’t feeling herself this mid-March afternoon as it was before she arrived at the unwelcome sign. Being forced out of her normal way home will take her many miles out of her way and will take a lot of time, thus disrupting her normal routine as she savors the time when she is home alone after work and her husband is yet to arrive.

Bill Claymore wants the private investigator to follow his unfaithful wife in “Little City Blues” by Annie Reed. The private investigator may be home from Vietnam, but the war and what he went through in that hell is never far from his thoughts. He is willing to tail her and see what is going on as long as he gets paid. That does not mean he will do every single thing Claymore wants.

The next short story hit me pretty hard though my circumstances were quite a bit different. When a spouse passes, a lot of horrible people reach out to express their condolences and to try to take advantage of the death in one way or another. Most of mine were from women who claimed that Sandi had sent them my way as one of her last acts online or in person, which was obviously impossible, or others who wanted to personally help me with my grief according to their messages that included pictures of them naked or nearly naked. Some just needed plane ticket money. Some claimed to have messages from Sandi so I had to prove who I was by divulging some personal information. Nearly five years later now, it rarely happens by email. Instead, now and at a far lower rate, it happens via Twitter. One hopes that if there is a heaven and a hell, that such people have a front row seat in the hot zone.

In “Grief Spam” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, a widow has been devasted by her husband’s death. Now, just over two weeks later, she and others are receiving messages that seem to indicate Rob was doing and saying horrible things before he died in the single car crash. Lucca Kwindale has a private investigator company, Kwindale Investigations, and soon has a new mission and a compelling reason to get up and out of bed in the morning. Find out if Rob, the schoolteacher and the man she married and the father of their three daughters, was the man she though he was or if he was a scumbag and quite possibly even a criminal?

Paul Gates and his brother, Tristan, had been thought to be dead after the report by Kevin Delman. Mr. Delman had been lucky to survive the fall off the beach cliff several days ago. Authorities had found no trace of the boys and it was believed they had died and been taken out to sea. Now, four days after the accident, Tristian has pulled himself back up the cliff at a point a considerable distance from where he reportedly went over, and has been taken to a nearby hospital in “A Heaven Or A Hell” by Anna Scotti. The background of the situation with the boys and what really happened are major plot points in this complex tale.

The man is known as Marrick at the hotel in Singapore where he is staying. He gets a message to go to a certain locker at the airport in “Bang On The Money” by Ginny Stuart. He recovers the stored suitcase and changes his clothes and does quite a lot more as his latest job is underway.

Carol Clarke has a lot going on as “The Influencer” by Ellen Tremiti begins. Part of that is her job as a Detective. She isn’t really ready to retire, but her daughter and the grandbaby need her. She also has one last case to work as a favor to her boss. A missing person’s case that is hers because the mother of the missing young lady goes to her boss’s church.

After three weeks on the road doing his job, Ryan Vargas expected his wife in the house and waiting for him. She isn’t. Minutes after he arrives home, he gets a picture on his cellphone making it clear his wife is elsewhere and not by choice. Why she was taken and how he is going to get her back are two major pieces of “Give Or Take A Quarter Inch” by Joseph S. Walker.

It is an early taste of the blazing heat of summer in the neighborhood surrounding the bar known as Nightbirds when Ray Carney arrives. He certainly had no desire to be there as “The Theresa Job” by Colson Whitehead begins, but Freddie wanted to talk to him. Freddie knows about a job. Miami Joe is involved, as is a safe, and his cousin Freddie has been throwing his name around. So now, Ray Carrey is involved even though he wants no part of it.

Sam Kelson and DeMarcus Rodman have had a quiet night in where things in “Where There’s Love” by Michael Wiley. That is when Kelson was not talking as he pretty much talks nonstop these days. Especially when he is nervous. They knew there was something fishy about the overnight security job in the jewelry store. They might soon find out exactly what the deal is as they are no longer alone.

A “Bonus Story” titled “Jury Of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell brings the short stories to a close. In this short story, Mrs. Martha Hale is summoned, by the Sheriff, along with her husband, to go to a nearby house. Ostensibly, Mrs. Peters wanted her company. Why and what happened there the day before is the crux of this tale.

The book concludes with a listing of ten additional short stories of honorable mention. Among the notable ten are “An Ache So Divine” by S. A. Cosby and “Everybody Comes To Lucille’s” by John M. Floyd. Both stories can be found in the anthology, Jukes & Tonks: Crime Fiction Inspired by Music in the Dark and Suspect Choices, which was edited by Michael Bracken and Garry Phillips, and published by Down & Out Books in April 2021.

The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2022 is an interesting anthology. It certainly fits Mr. Penzler’s stated definition of what constitutes a mystery and there are crimes galore. Diverse in terms of author styles and subject matter, it was also a book that was very much hit or miss for this reader. Some tales very much appealed to me. Others, not at all. Still, every reader should be able to find several stories they really like in the book.



As previously noted, my reading copy came by way of a NetGalley ARC. 


Kevin R. Tipple ©2022


Art Taylor said...

Great review! (...though sad to read the aside in response to the Kristine Kathryn Rusch story.) Looking forward to getting the collection myself.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

It rocked me pretty good. The last few weeks have been very tough in the old grief sea and no doubt that all played a roll.

Hope you enjoy the book. Apparently they moved the pub date back to 9/27.

Art Taylor said...

Hang in there, Kevin —sending good thoughts your way, always.
And yep, saw that shift in date. I'll stay tuned!