Thirty-four stories culled from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, the venerable monthly that’s played second fiddle to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for half a century.
Why are anthologies of reprints so often more rewarding than collections of new material? Partly because, as editor Landrican puts it, “50 years is a lot of stories.” With hundreds of entries to choose from, it’s easy to skip mediocre competitors in favor of Edward D. Hoch’s impossible defenestration “The Long Way Down” and Steve Hockensmith’s farewell-to-the-force, “Erie’s Last Day.” Partly because there’s a particular pleasure in savoring great names from the past like Jim Thompson and Charles Willeford or reminding yourself that classics like Lawrence Block’s “A Candle for the Bag Lady” and Sara Paretsky’s “The Takamoku Joseki” first saw the light in AHMM, creating a mutual glow by association. Partly because only a collection of oldies can resurrect forgotten gems like Ed Lacy’s neatly turned “The ‘Method’ Sheriff” and Stephen Wasylyk’s “The Search for Olga Bateau,” in which a hard-bitten reporter is softened by an unsolved case from the past. And partly for the thrill of rediscovering early stories by Bill Pronzini, Doug Allyn and S.J. Rozan before they hit the big time.
The only pleasure this doorstop-sized package doesn’t deliver, in fact, is a surer sense of AHMM’s particular cachet. But maybe that lack of any specific house style is its greatest strength.