The Best American Mystery and Suspense: 2022, ed. Jess Walter 2022
I have a very strict policy when it comes to listing books on my web site. I never list a book unless I have read the entire work including the foreword, the afterword, the acknowledgements, etc. This is an important standard to honor since I have dropped the long-standing habit of finishing every book that I begin. As time has gone on, I more and more often will start a book, read a chapter or two (or sometimes only the first page or two) and decide that it’s not worth the time and effort—-the topic is dull, the writing is turgid or more often, overly flowery, etc. I have never, never listed those books, until this moment.
I did not finish this book! I did read 174 of the 291 pages, a full 12 of the 20 stories, but I couldn’t go on, and in thinking about why, I thought my explanation warranted an entry into the Book Journal. While I love mysteries and thrillers, this short story approach of <5000 words didn't work, and I wondered why. First, the stories were spotty with a rare gem written by Lauren Groff but many others that fell far short of good writing. Second, while the full length mystery novels of Simenon, Connelly, Westlake and others have the time and space to develop characters in depth and plots in detail, the short story form felt too short and unsatisfying. Also, these stories felt more violent and sensationalized than the full length book handling of the genre---too much like the tattered and torn magazines one might find on the subway. All in all, a rather unsatisfying experience. So, I've deviated from my policy of only listing those books that I've completed, but I will now return to that approach, hopefully wiser but not more tolerant. The disappointment was especially acute since I LOVE the Best American Essays volumes having read nearly all of them since #1 in 1986. Maybe the problem with this one was the editor, not the format, but I doubt if I'll have the chance to figure that out. [/av_textblock]