Skip the extensive but mostly superfluous introductory essays on the year 2004 in mystery and dive into the generous and much more compelling evidence.
Soft-pedaling the international scope that’s sometimes a keynote of this annual collection, editors Gordon and Greenberg have gathered a large and varied crop of English-language crime stories. The best of their best are typically wide-ranging. Robert S. Levison pits a hit man against a Middle American town. Robert Barnard’s murder victim isn’t quite the girl she seemed. Aliya Whiteley’s imaginary friend turns deadly. Dennis Murphy assassin looks back as he readies himself to shoot. And Luke Sholer provides a miraculously compressed account of revenge for the sarin attack in the Tokyo subway. The rest of the stories aren’t up to the same high level, but practically all are worth the time, from the leadoff pair of offbeat Sherlockian adventures by Gary Lovisi (mystical) and Jeffery Deaver (cynical) to a trio of historicals. Lillian Stewart Carl literally resurrects Lord Robert Dudley's wife Amy Robsart; Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens check in on Mae West; and Christine Matthews pays homage to Fatty Arbuckle.
Also appearing: Charlie Stella’s gay priests, Val McDermid’s non-award-winning author, Laura Lippman’s shoeshine man and lesser entries by Francis M. Nevins, Martyn Waits, Joyce Carol Oates and many, many more.