The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2022, edited by Sara Paretsky and Otto Penzler, is a marvelous “best of year” anthology coming to bookstores this fall. There are 21 stories, mostly from American writers, but with a couple international voices thrown in for good measure: Jo Nesbø from Norway and Ireland’s Colin Barrett. The source publications are as diverse as the stories—The New Yorker, The Briar Cliff Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harper’s Magazine, and of course the usual suspects are represented also: Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, etc.
Doug Allyn’s “Kiss of Life” is a smooth and darkly entertaining novella about responsibility, parental love, hope, and betrayal. Its summertime Lake Michigan setting, with beaches, bikinis, and tourists, provides an intriguing contrast with the tale’s seedier happenings. “Avalon” by Michael Connelly is a small-town procedural—or small-island procedural since it is set on California’s Catalina Island—where a stranger arrives with a gun and bad intentions. Susan Frith’s “Better Austens” is a clever and completely original dystopian tale about mothers, crime, corporate greed, and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Its deceptively cheerful tone—grandmas and cookies—mask the story’s disturbing reality. Colson Whitehead, Tom Larsen, Joyce Carol Oates, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch add magnificent stories, too.