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by Lee Child and Otto Penzler
The Mysterious Press, September 2021
454 pages
ISBN: 1613162383

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Twenty short stories from 2020, plus a bonus story from the past, come together in this anthology edited by thriller novelist Lee Child for a series edited by Otto Penzler. It’s no stretch to say these were some of the best short stories from 2020, and the collection is sure to have something for everyone—from those who like traditional mysteries to those who like thrillers or noir stories.

One of my favorites was Martin Edwards' "The Locked Cabin," a locked-room mystery aboard the Queen Mary ship, with an old-fashioned, traditional feeling. At the end of each story, the author discusses the inspiration behind the story. Edwards says he was inspired after giving a series of lectures on the Queen Mary 2. He also says he wanted to play with the familiar trope. He's certainly done that, with a delicious twist at the end.

Saviors and allies come in the unlikeliest forms in two stories that stood out to me. One was "Biloxi Bound," by John Floyd, about two brothers who run a restaurant. They are making plans to move because of the increasing crime rate when a gunman walks in one night. Fortunately, someone steps in to help. A gunman and an unlikely ally also figure in "That Which is True," by Jacqueline Freimor, in a story about a jury that is deliberating when danger arises.

The anthology is filled with well-known authors, among them James Lee Burke, David Morrell, Joyce Carol Oates, and Sara Paretsky, all masters of their craft. But I was especially enthralled with two big-name authors. One was Stephen King. In "The Fifth Step," a character is going through the 12 steps of Alcoholic Anonymous. But this is King writing the story, so be assured that it will have a darker side to it. My other favorite was from the late Sue Grafton, and this was an unexpected surprise. Her story, "If You Want Something Done Right …," was discovered after her death by her widower and published for the first time last year. It is a story about a woman who amuses herself by plotting to kill her cheating husband. It is just a pastime, but then her notes are discovered. This clever story will amuse you too.

§ Lourdes Venard is an independent editor who divides her time between New York and Maui.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, September 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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