The modern crime story is not just about whodunit anymore. Hutchings’s (The Cutting Edge, ed., 1998, etc.) 27 prime
selections from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (which she edits), 1995–99, reflect the state of the art of the mystery short
story, showing off the range and top-quality writing of mostly name-brand, award-winning writers. O. Henry twists, historicals,
thrillers, cozies, and traditionals are all here, in an enlightening and enjoyable collection. One of the best: Kristine Kathryn
Rusch’s EQMM Readers Award tale, "Details"; compelling and noirish, it flashes back to a post-WWII, Nevada small town
and a septuagenarian’s nightmarish account of racism and regrets. Edward D. Hoch’s clever but coy Anthony Award-winning
story, "One Bag of Coconuts," relies on puns and double-crosses involving rare Madagascar radiated tortoises. Barbara
D’Amato’s delightfully whimsical triple-award winner (Anthony, Agatha, Macavity), "Of Course You Know That Chocolate
is a Vegetable," offers a writer's sweet revenge against a devastatingly cruel reviewer. Other strong entries: Carolyn Hart’s fully
developed characters and vivid regional and period details in "Spooked"; Joyce Carol Oates’s brief, psychologically surreal "The
Sky-Blue Ball," in which a lonely 14-year-old girl tosses a ball over a red-brick wall to an invisible playmate; Simon Brett’s
poignant study of a boy’s "Best Behaviour"; and S.J. Rozan’s "Hoops," which slam-dunks the hot-button topic of AIDS in a
story of justice served. Unfortunately, there are a few misfirings (overlong efforts with anticlimactic resolutions, others with
wrenching punch-line endings).
By and large, however, Hutchings’s compendium should serve readers well through many a dark and stormy night.