The latest installment of the annual anthology suggests that it hasn’t been a vintage year for the mystery short story.
Big names dominate. Michael Connelly’s accident specialist works a suspicious one-car fatality; Jeffery Deaver’s converted sinner makes amends to those who’ve crossed his path; Lawrence Block’s tennis fan turns stalker; Laura Lippman’s tough girls deal with a lug looking for you-know-what. In the three longest stories, Doug Allyn pits a suburban father against the hunters who killed his family dog, Dorothy Salisbury Davis recalls a Black Irish murder two generations ago and Clark Howard packs a mercenary off to Kabul to break his brother out of jail. Every entry is workmanlike, none a true standout. Even the anthology’s biggest innovation—four online stories prefaced by a survey of online mystery fiction—offers more professionalism than inspiration. The distinguished roster also includes Marcia Muller, Bill Pronzini, Dick Lochte, Robert S. Levinson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Joyce Carol Oates, all in middling form. The saddest news of all is the death of Edward D. Hoch, whose hundreds of mystery short stories offered so many anthologists so much material for so long.
Since the collection depends heavily on brand names, 2007 can’t even be described as what baseball managers call a building year. Wait till next year is more like it.