The Best American Mystery Stories 1997 - Robert B. Parker, Otto Penzler
Is it unfair of me to think that this selection of the "best" is remarkably conservative, even stale? I know that Otto Penzler has been in the business for a very long time, which might explain his choices; but, by reputation, it's not what I'd have expected from Parker -- but it makes more sense when I find that Parker devoted his introduction to rehashing for the 400,000th time Chandler's essay on the American private eye. These crime stories (not mystery, for the most part -- very little uncertainty) contain social analyses, regional flavor, character studies, etc., but mostly in watered-down form. A few that stood out to my eyes: Elmore Leonard as snappy as ever, and Doug Allyn's moody "Blind Lemon". Monica Wood's "Unlawful Contact" is successfully startling, but could be even better. I'm not really grumbling; when I read "The Mark", I found myself enjoying it even though every sentence seemed familiar.