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The Best American Mystery Stories 2012

(The Best American Mystery Stories)

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  399 ratings  ·  41 reviews
The Best American Series®
First, Best, and Best-Selling

The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  399 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Jonathan Peto
Nov 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I preferred some stories over others, of course, but enjoyed 'em all. I've read quite a few volumes from this series over the years and always appreciate the opportunity to read mystery stories by authors known to me and unknown. The excellent writing found in these volumes is, I believe, what first opened my discerning and highly critical mind to the possibilities and pleasures of mystery stories. In the introduction, the series editor, Otto Penzler, often explains and/or apologies for his wide ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be an excellent collection of mystery/crime stories (Penzler is always careful to elucidate how the term "mystery" has broadened itself over the years, but I don't have to, do I? And isn't a good story a good story, regardless of what genre it falls under?) with a number of particularly stellar entries. I had a hunch I'd like Crais's selections, since I find his writing appealing, but I was very happy to have it confirmed, especially in stories like:

K. L. Cook's "Filament," where
A nice collection of mystery stories of all types. A few historicals, a few thrillers, a few whodunits. Many were noir. A nice read for in the doctor's office.
Steve Hockensmith
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some of these stories I liked a lot. Some of them I didn't warm up to. One of them I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaated. (I'm not naming names.) The mix of literary to genre offerings was about the same as always for this series, which can lead to a bit of tonal monotony. (The mix leans strongly to the literary/"dark" side.) I took my sweet time reading the book, stepping away for plenty of palette cleansers, so I never burned out on it. If you like your crime fiction introspective, unsentimental and noir-i ...more
Prior to getting this from the Virginia Festival of the Book office to read as a reviewer of book applications for their planning committee, I had no idea that the famous "Best American" series had a mystery subgenre. I mostly enjoyed this collection, though I think the title calling them all "mystery stories" is rather misleading. In his introduction, the series editor - the well-known mystery editor and aficionado Otto Penzler - states that it's really a collection of both mystery and crime st ...more
Dec 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Not many stories fit the classic mystery genre, but they are all well-written. My favorite is "The Bridge Partner" by Peter S. Beagle.
Tay Mueller
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
I was disappointed in this collection, based on the fact that the stories are not mysteries.

Perhaps I am behind the times, and what the genera includes may be expanding. Still, calling the stories mysteries is not really fair to the reader. I don't feel competent to say how good the stories were, as I was judging them as mysteries, which they clearly are not.

Best American Crime stories might be a better title. If you like contemporary fiction with an element of crime, you might find this to be
Jayne Subwick
Jan 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Robert Crais is one of my favorite authors and this series is one of my favorite anthologies, so I was especially disappointed with the choices. They just seemed a little too esoteric and they didn't string together with any discernible thread. I kept looking back at the opening of the stories to find where they were coming from.
Dec 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Hit men, kidnappers, the obsessed, and a some common criminal behavior. This collection has more than a few fine mystery stories. And a couple, including "Funeral Bill" that just aren't quite classifiable, yet worth the read.

Jackie G
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I liked some of the stories more than others but all were well crafted and interesting.
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
My favorite story is Thomas McGuane's "The Good Samaritan," which includes this:

"Telling people to relax is not as aggressive as shooting them, but it's up there."

Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Most of the stories in this collection weren't what I would call mysteries at all, so I was disappointed.
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
The enjoyment you get from this book will depend a lot on the baggage you bring to it. First: expectations. What do you expect a mystery story to be or do? I came in anticipating whodunits with a corpse, a gumshoe, and a list of possible suspects. Maybe that's hard to accomplish in the short story form. Series editor Otto Penzler's nebulous definition of a "mystery" sounds more like a product disclaimer than a statement of faith. Basically, Penzler contends that any story containing even a whiff ...more
Robert Bishop
Jun 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
In the foreword to this compilation, Series Editor Otto Penzler warns readers that his definition of the mystery genre differs with popular opinion. Specifically, he believes that mysteries are more than just detective stories and whodunits, a sentiment I can agree with. It does appear, however, that Penzler is swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. More than half of the 20 stories included in the edition have no or very few mysterious elements. Penzler apparently prefers murde ...more
Judith Shadford
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
A lifetime of reading mysteries, writing a few with some success, I now understand why an increasing number of literary journals are taking mysteries off their taboo "genre" lists and adding them to the mainstream. Two, maybe three, in this collection are just The Best! I'll never forget Eileen Dreyer's "The Sailor in the Picture". We all know The Picture: sailors returning to New York following WWII. The guy sweeps a nurse into his arms and kisses her at Times Square. This story is the about th ...more
Deb Oestreicher
Sep 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I found this rather disappointing even though it contains many fine stories. Few of the stories are mysteries, though. The editor's foreword explains how he defines the category differently (more like stories with a crime in them, but the stories here don't necessarily meet that criterion either). Most of the stories here would not be out of place in the Best American Short Stories collection--indeed, one of them IS in that collection--but that's not what I expected from this volume. I was disap ...more
Chris Cosci
Oct 12, 2014 rated it liked it
In an anthology such as this, it's expected that some stories will resonate more than others. None of the stories here is challenging to get through. They're all well written. Your enjoyment will depend on the style you prefer and, as many people -- editors included -- have noted, your willingness to be open-minded to the definition of "mystery."

That being said, I enjoyed Soul Anatomy and stories mostly toward the end of the anthology (Hard Truths, Local Knowledge, and Trafalgar) more than other
Jason Garrison
Oct 31, 2012 rated it liked it
The Best American series is a collection of excellent writing spanning several genres in both fiction and nonfiction. Writings tend to come from literary magazines so they tend to be of high quality. This collection does not disappoint in this area, and the stories are interesting. However, if you like traditional page-turning mysteries, this is not necessarily the place to look. Thats not to say this collection isnt worth reading; the title is just a bit of a misnomer at times. Of local interes ...more
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, short-story
Penzler's taste in mystery definitely runs similarly to mine, so this is a series I like to return to each year - it's intriguing to see how authors are playing with elements of traditional mystery in surprising and challenging ways. There are only a few straight mysteries here; the rest take a crime or a hidden backstory as a jumping-off point for a plot that doesn't follow the classic rules. There are a number of standouts, but if I'm picking a favorite, I'll take the Ireland-set "Hard Truths. ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have read this mystery series since 2007. This year's collection is consist of the crime stories following last two years. All writers are highly talented, so I enjoyed reading.

I like best 'Fifty Minutes' by Joe Donnelly and Harry Shannon, 'Soul Anatomy' by Lou Manfredo, and 'Looking for Service' by Nathan Oates.

I thought that 'Soul Anatomy' and 'Filament' by K.L. Cook are also suitable for short stories series.
Margaret Sankey
Feb 27, 2013 rated it liked it
(Clearly) I am a fool for big, complicated mystery novels, but I also admire the authors who can give me the dark side of human nature in bite-sized pieces, using economy of words to flesh out characters and events in short form. The 2012 collection includes some real gems, especially from authors like Peter Beagle, who usually write fantasy rather than mystery or crime, and the back notes, in which authors explain what inspired each story, are always a pleasure.
Sarah Beaudoin
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty solid compilation of short stories, but it wasn't quite what I expected. These are almost entirely stories that have some element of the weird or creepy, but virtually none of them are what I'd qualify as mysteries. This didn't matter for me but I can see that if you're a diehard mystery fan, this book wouldn't be quite what you expected. If you're just a fan of good writing, this is worth a read.
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
I didn't like this collection as much as previous years. It delivered more on the editor's premise that mystery genre stories need not have any mystery in them. That is, some of the stories are just stories involving a crime. The awful violence outside the context of a mystery is, well, unredeemed, and less appealing.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting collection of stories in this edition of theBest American series. As with any collection I liked some better than others. My favorites will probably be different than yours but that is true for any collection of stories. I really enjoyed:
The Bridge Partner
Local Knowledge
Half Lives
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Many wonderful stories in here, but I felt as I was reading them that there wasn't as much of a variety as I'd like. There was a sameness to some of them. That being said, they were all well-written and a few really stood out.
Andrew Paliotta
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good selection of "mystery" stories. The editor's definition of mystery is much more broad than most people would think but still some very interesting and intriguing authors. I do find it odd that one story was in this compilation as well as the Best American Short Stories 2012.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Every one of these stories is beautifully written, but not many are mysteries. Most of them are mood pieces. Seemed like a lot of stories set in jails or swamps. But they were all worth reading and I especially liked the Charles Todd one, which was a mystery.
Dell Taylor
My actual rating: 2.75. This was a disappointment. I was expecting to read "Great" stories -- but, that was not the case! This makes me really wonder about the state of the short mystery story. I have read much better from the masters of yesteryear......
Joel Wong
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Some hits some misses
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the variety and availability of short reads when I have limited time.
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Robert Crais is the author of the best-selling Elvis Cole novels. A native of Louisiana, he grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River in a blue collar family of oil refinery workers and police officers. He purchased a secondhand paperback of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister when he was fifteen, which inspired his lifelong love of writing, Los Angeles, and the literature of crime fiction. ...more

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