The Year’s Best Mystery and Suspense Stories 1992
The guiding principle in compiling the anthology under review appears to have been “safety first.” The stories included are uniformly good, but none is particularly memorable for uniqueness in character, plot, or setting. Some of them venture into different time periods, and one even travels to Russia to present a story featuring Porfiry Petrovich, the detective from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. This story, by Stuart Kaminsky, succeeds best in establishing a setting. Wendy Hornsby’s “Nine Sons” depends on its rural setting for its plot, but the rest of the stories might have been placed just about anywhere and at any time.
The value of the safe approach is that all of the stories are immensely readable, if somewhat familiar. Hoch’s own entry, “The Problem of the Grange Hall,” involves characters (Dr. Sam Hawthorne and Sheriff Lens) established in a long series of stories, and Bill Pronzini’s “La Bellezza Delle Bellezze” brings back his nameless detective of Italian origin. Three of the entries come from ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, and a fourth from the similar ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. Faithful readers of those publications will enjoy the rest of the selections, as they carry the same flavor. Styles of stories range from the hard-boiled to the cozy to the locked-room mystery, offering variety in that respect.
All of the authors included in the volume will be familiar to mystery readers, although some write very few short stories. Among those are Lawrence Block, the winner of this year’s Edgar Award, and Ruth Rendell. Wendy Hornsby’s entry in the volume, “Nine Sons,” won an Edgar Award as best short story of the year. Appendixes list best mystery and suspense novels of the year, collections and anthologies published during 1991, nonfiction books concerning mystery and suspense, winners of major mystery and suspense awards, and a necrology of writers and editors. The collection as a whole is sure to please but unlikely to enthrall.