Another so-so roundup from editor Hoch, reflecting the uninspired state of the mystery short-story these days. (An introduction notes that ""the mystery magazines are in trouble""--though anthologies, largely reliant on old material, are doing relatively well.) The only fully satisfying piece is Robert Bamard's ""The Woman in the Wardrobe,"" about a schoolmaster's discovery, after his wife's death (a hit-and-run ""accident""), that she led a secret, adulterous Other Life; the story is rich yet taut, with Bamard--as usual--always one or two twists ahead of the reader. Other entries provide more modest, predictable diversion: Isaac Asimov's armchair sleuth Griswold is featured in ""The Stamp,"" an Ellery Queen-ish trick-tale, better in buildup than final twist; Brian Garfield's ""King's X"" is a familiar but breezy scare-caper; Paula Gosling offers a wry closeup of an arthritic, elderly jewel-thief, sneaking out of his nursing home for one last heist. And Reginald Hill's ""Exit Line"" (from last year's John Creasey's Crime Collection) is a serviceable variation on the prison-escape/locked-room problem. Otherwise, along with sub-routine efforts by old hands (John D. MacDonald, Bill Pronzini, Hoch), there's a sizable portion here of the maudlin /unpleasant fare that passes for serious-orsophisticated in some mystery-writing circles. Harlan Ellison's Edgar-winner is a heavyhanded nightmare of urban pseudo-sociology; Eric M. Heideman and Brendan DuBois deliver derivative psychological close-ups; even Julian Symons, a master of psychopathology, is off form, with a recycled psychosexual twist that he's handled far better before. Plus: nasty, misogynistic camp from George Baxt and repulsive, twist-less homicidal mania from Joyce Harrington. Somewhat less dull, if no more impressive, than other recent annuals; the appendices, however, remain solidly informative.