Bruce Snell's Reviews > The Best American Mystery Stories 2011

The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 by Harlan Coben
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Jul 04, 12

Read from April 17 to July 04, 2012

This is a collection of short stories printed in various periodicals during 2011, and edited by Harlan Coben. I enjoyed this collection. I try to read a short story between novels to clear my mind and make myself ready for the next book. I can honestly say that several of these stories did not let me clear my mind - they stuck with me, forcing me to think about them in depth and I can't ask for more from any story than that.

Notes on a few stories that are worth thinking about:

Audacious - a compelling story about a lonely old man and a young female pickpocket. Maybe because I'm getting older, this story struck me. The old man finds comfort and companionship in the young girl - no sex, just friendship. In the end, in trying to help her out, he violates their covenant and ends up lonelier than ever.

Clean Slate - Possibly my favorite in the book. A young woman has found a way to enjoy casual sex and still work towards retrieving her virginity.

Ride-a-long - A young woman goes on a ride-a-long with a local police officer. Robbery and possibly murder follow. Interesting, but not life changing.

What His Hands Had Been Waiting For - a story from the Delta in 1927. A couple of men working in the Mississippi Delta after a great natural disaster are tasked with stopping looters. In the end, one of them finds a woman (maybe love) and moves on. Not really a mystery, but an interesting character study.

Flying Solo - a couple of older men meet while undergoing cancer treatment. They become vigilantes helping the nurses and other patients with abusive spouses and similar problems. In the end, one dies, and the other must decide if he is able to carry on alone. An interesting tale of aging and the freedom impending death can bring.

The Hitter - An unusual story of a hit man working to take out other hit men.

West of Nowhere - Three young Texas criminals stick up a poker game run by the local mob. Good story with a good twist.

Baby Killer - A woman living in the barrio of Los Angles witnesses a baby being killed in a drive by shooting. She is unable to help the police, but finds a way to extract justice.

The End of The String - Far more of a spy story than a mystery, but a story that pulls you in and keeps you involved well past the end. The story of a coup in a small African country and how it happens almost without bloodshed.

Diamond Alley - the story of a group of boys and their last year in high school - listening to baseball on the radio and watching the prettiest girl in school - a girl who is murdered before the start of the world series, but haunts their lives forever. This is one of my favorite stories in the book, especially the ending suggesting a solution to the murder, but leaving enough doubt to keep me thinking well past the end of the story.

Last Cottage - a very disquieting story about a family that summers in a resort town, and the reaction of the townsfolk to them.

Heart Like a Balloon - The story of two old friends - and how one commits murder to help the other. In the end, the murder, thought to be suicide, frees the murderer from the gangster.

A Long Time Dead - Sometimes a person has to die twice before it counts.
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