Summer Reading Sale
 
 

Reviews From


Indiespensable

spacer
Review-a-Day
Esquire
Wednesday, April 10th, 2002


 

The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century

by Tony Hillerman

The Greatest Whodunits

A review by Adrienne Miller

Gist: Just like the title says, more or less. The Best American franchise (we've already got The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Sports Writing) continues onward, and upward.

Upshot: What dark fun! These aren't whodunits of the Mrs. White In the Study With the Cleaver variety, keep in mind. The selections in The Best American Mystery Stories Of the Century are concerned, first and foremost, with psychology. If there's any universal thread here, it's this: the writers are interested in decisions, and the human consequences of those decisions. Other similarity: The stories all end with, as Salieri said in Amadeus, a big bang, a left turn in other words, a monstrous surprise.

The two greatest practitioners of the detective story Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are here, Chandler with his marvelous detective story "Red Wind," which set a hard-boiled precedent for everything that came after it. The magnificently cruel Patricia Highsmith is represented by her story "The Terrapin," about a mama, a son, and the turtle they eat for dinner. Other standouts: Stephen King's "Quitters, Inc.," Tom Franklin's "Poachers," Flannery O'Connor's "The Comforts of Home," and Willa Cather's "Paul's Case." There are some dogs, too, though the Steinbeck story "The Murder" is awful, but then again, I've always had it in for Steinbeck, and the Pearl S. Buck story, "Ransom," finishes with one of the very worst lines in history: " 'Course I can,' Bruce said sturdily." The older stories are generally better, richer and more complex, than the newer ones, though maybe I'm just being a nostalgist? The Best American Mystery Stories Of the Century is a mixed bag, perhaps, but a worthy and welcome addition to your library.

Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.


Click here to subscribeSubscribe to Esquire and Save 75%

Get 12 fantastic issues of Esquire magazine for only $8. The best culture, entertainment, style, financial advice, women and more delivered right to your door every month ? at an incredible 81% savings off the newsstand price! What could be better... or easier?

Click here to subscribe now!

spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.