It’s not easy to collect, in a single volume, the finest mystery and suspense fiction the world has to offer, but The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: Second Annual Collection rises to that challenge, inviting you to discover what Kirkus Reviews dubs “ . . . the year’s anthology of choice.”
In his Second Annual collection, Ed Gorman once again brings together the year’s most powerful fiction by such outstanding authors as Lawrence Block, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Ed McBain, Joyce Carol Oates, Ian Rankin, and Donald E. Westlake. The volume also abounds with fresh new stories by newer authors, from U. S. publications, and also from sources on other shores, including England, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Ed Gorman set benchmark for great mystery and suspense fiction with the First Annual Collection. Overflowing with award-winning authors and terrific stories, The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: Second Annual Collection also promises to be a treasure for anyone who loves a mystery.
More than 200,000 words of superlative mystery and suspense fiction from around the world, with stories by:
Joyce Carol Oates
And many others
A Banquet of Mystery and Crime Fiction
For those who love outstanding mystery and crime reading, award-winning author and editor, Ed Gorman, has once again collected the best stories of the year from around the world. Immerse yourself in stories that baffle, tantalize, and delight, by the following authors:
Edward D. Hoch
Stuart M. Kaminsky
Joyce Carol Oates
Robert J. Randisi
S. J. Rozan
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Donald E. Westlake
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Ed Gorman, winner of the Shamus Award, has been writing fiction in many genres for over twenty years. He is the author of more than twenty novels and dozens of short stories, and has been a finalist for the Edgard and Bram Stoker Awards. He lives with his wife, author Carol Gorman, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: Second Edition
Kristine Kathryn RucshSpinningKRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH has spent most of her professional life working in the fields of science fiction and fantasy. She has also done significant editing in those fields, most notably as the previous editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. And then she became a crime-fiction writer. Like that. Suddenly, suspense stories bloomed from that contraption on her desk just as science fiction once had. And what stories they've been. Last year, under the name Kris Nelscott, she debuted her first crime series with the novel A Dangerous Road. We're pleased to present two of the several of her stories published this year. First, "Spinning," which appeared in the July issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine , and may be her best story yet.Midway through that first awful class--when the clock above the mirrors said she had only been on the stationary bike for twenty-two minutes, but her body told her she had been on it for 2.2 days, when she thought her heart was going to burst through her chest like a creature out of the movie Alien, when sweat poured off her in rivers, and her breath came in deep honking gasps--midway through all of that, Patricia bent her head, saw the flab on her thighs go up while her actual legs went down, and heard Tom, her instructor, call over the rock music:"Good. Real good. Excellent. Keep going. Wonderful. Hmmm. You'll get it. Relax. Wait until it feels good. Good. Relax ... ."Something in the rhythm of his voice, in the involuntary nature of the sounds, told her he would sound like this in bed. He would talk, his words meaningless, an accompaniment to the beat his body had established, and the pattern would continue building, building, building, until his voice rose in a cry and everything stopped.She focused on that, held onto that, because it felt like the only thing that made him real somehow, made him, this Greek god of a man, whose muscles were perfectly sculpted, whose eyes were warm and brown and not quite sympathetic enough, slightly less intimidating. And she needed a reason not to be intimidated.Two hundred pounds did not fit on her delicate five-four frame. She didn't know how she had let herself go like this. Excuse after excuse, she supposed, a sense of denial, a willingness to believe, at first, that it was her clothes that were shrinking not her body that was expanding. It had taken two years of failed exercise attempts to bring her to this class, to this moment, and she had been planning to drop out of this one too until he fell into his unconscious personal rhythm and she realized that he too was human.And then she looked up, saw those not-quite-sympathetic eyes fall on her with something like disgust. She knew how she looked. The gym had thoughtfully provided a mirror in its exercise room. She saw the five other women in the spinning class: the darling with her tight, sculpted, twenty-five-year-old body who made it clear that she had never tried this before, and who was so in shape that she managed all the motions with ease; the middle-aged housewives in the middle,looking fine to her, but complaining about that extra ten pounds they always put on in the holidays; the bartender, an older woman who looked strong and solid, who had told Patricia about the class; and the anorexic creature beside Patricia who was having just as much trouble keeping up--apparently her eating habits, like Patricia's, robbed her of the strength to exercise. But none of them looked as disgusting as she did in her sweats, her face red, her new perm damp, her body straining. Why was it that she, a woman who had to struggle to walk across the room, was being treated like the pariah, when she was the one who needed the most courage, the most strength, to be here?It was because the others were all afraid that some day, somehow, through the same careless inattentiveness that she had shown, they would all end up looking like her.But he, he had no right to look at her that way. He was supposed to be the professional, the one who helped people like her become hard bodies like him. He wasn't supposed to let her see that she disgusted him, even though she did.It was that look, in combination with her realization about him, that gave her the determination she had lacked. As her legs went round and round, the stationary bike's resistance on its lowest setting, she realized that she now had a goal.She had been pretty once, eighty pounds and fifteen years ago. She would be pretty again.And when she was, he would want her. She would take him to bed, and she would find out if he really sounded like that. And if he did, she would look at him with the same disgust she had seen in his eyes only moments before. She would look at him, and she would laugh.
Meeting her goal was harder than she thought it would be. After her first spinning class, she had to go immediately to bed, and when she got up the next morning, her legs ached so badly that she could barely climb stairs. Over time, she grew used to the class, and she moved onto weights, treadmills, and aerobics.Within six months, she had lost thirty pounds and her body had definition. The spinning classes were tedious--she had learned the pattern within a few days and knew what he would call out next--and she found herself waiting for a repetition of the moment, the moment that had inspired her. It didn't happen often, and she watched him now. He would catch himself, as if he did know how he sounded, and sometimes, he would catch her looking at him.She always smiled. She tried to be as congenial as she could.Fortunately, she didn't have to be congenial anywhere else. She was having trouble being pleasant. The exercise put her in a good mood for an hour or two afterward, but the exhaustion that came with it angered her. She went back to her family doctor, wondering if the exercise was hurting her (even though he claimed, up front, that it would be the best thing for her) and he had calmly, patiently explained how the human body worked.She got a sense that he gave this explanation a lot. You are carrying the weight of a 12-year-old girl in addition to your own body weight. It is as if you are doing these exercises for two, when everyone else in the room is doing them for one.She wished she could explain it to them. The looks had stopped, after her second month, except when newcomers entered the gym. Then they stared at heras if she were the freak, or the one that would fail, and eventually, they would disappear.She remained, tenacious to the last.
It was at her job, another twenty pounds later, that she realized she was in a revenge cycle. She worked as a Web-site designer for a local Internet provider. Her brother was her boss, and he would interview the customer on tape, and she would listen to the interview, use the material, and design the Web site from there.In the past two weeks, clients who came to the office (and there were so few of them: most of them as lonely as she was) began to compliment her on her looks. She did look better. The loss of fifty pounds had also taken ten years off her face. The exercise and all the water it forced her to drink had cleared up her skin, and the pretty girl she remembered was beginning to make appearances in her mirror.The office was a tiny place--a three-room suite with a door opening onto a strip-mall sidewalk--that became even tinier whenever someone new came inside. The wallpaper-thin walls did not shut out any sound, so she usually heard her brother's interviews with potential Web site clients twice. Those she didn't mind, because she made notes, hearing different things on the first and second listenings. It was the casual conversations, the folks who dropped in just to update their accounts or to gossip with her brother or to see, lately, how different Patricia was looking, that got on her nerves.She had taken to closing her presswood door and opening the window that overlooked the alley, no matter how cold it was. Sometimes, if she did that, she could focus on the whoosh of traffic on the highway, the crunch of wheels on the gravel, the occasional conversations of people entering other businesses. If she was really lucky, it all became white noise, a sort of background to the tap-tap-tap of her fingers on the keys, her mind not in Seavy Village, but inside the computer, in that vast and somewhat mysterious network of computers known as the Internet. There she could float, be someone else, anyone else, and no one seemed to care that she was different except herself.It was in one of those moments when, on a whim, she took the quiz the local psychiatrist had asked her to put on his Web site. His self-help book, Negative Thoughts and How to Cure Them, had been climbing the bestseller list, and he believed he needed a way for his fans to contact him. He thought the quiz was an open door. She hadn't been too sure, but then, she hadn't been too sure about his book either, which seemed to her (when she read it) a '90s ripoff of Napoleon Hill's classic Think and Grow Rich. But she, like the suckers she was designing the page for, took the quiz, and as she read the paragraph summary of her answers, she saw herself in its analysis:You have a tendency to blame others for your problems. Instead of solving those problems, you hope that others suffer worse than you have. Sometimes you fantasize about causing the suffering yourself. This is not healthy behavior. For a solution, see page sixty-two in my book ...And because she had already committed herself that far, she looked up page sixty-two in the complementary copy of the book that the psychiatrist had given the office and saw the chapter heading in bold: The Revenge Cycle: Explanations of Your Obsession and How to Cure It.Surprisingly, the advice made sense to her. She had focused--obsessed--on Tom, on the sound of his voice, on the revenge she would get once she had sex with him and, more important, had laughed at him. Had humiliated him with her voice and her eyes and the body she had sculpted for just that purpose.After reading the chapter, she stood up behind her desk and ran her hands down her arms, feeling the skin beneath her cotton blouse. The skin and the muscle and the bone. She hadn't felt bone in years, the sharpness of her elbows, the two bumps on either side of her wrists. She was beginning to like this new self, beginning to accept that it, and not the woman whose thighs brushed together, was who she was.If she ended her focus on Tom, perhaps the exercise would end too. After all, the book said that all behaviors relating to the revenge cycle had to stop in order for it to be cured.The only behaviors she had were the good ones: the exercise, the healthy food, the grooming that she had only recently started to do again. Clothes looked good once more. Makeup made her seem older and more mysterious rather than a woman denying her encroaching middle age.As revenge fantasies went, this was a fairly harmless one. Perhaps she might dent Tom's rather solid self-esteem. Perhaps she might even make him reconsider casual affairs. But those two things might be good for him.They would certainly be good for her.It felt, when she looked on that moment later, as if for one brief afternoon she surfaced from her own thoughts, had a sense of clarity, and then dove back in, like a whale coming to the surface of water to take a breath.She didn't take another breath for a very long time.
At the end of eighteen months, she thought of spinning class as hell. But she hit her ideal weight that month, and actually came to the class in spandex that made her look athletic and not like she had squeezed her bulk into someone else's clothes. As she went through her first class at her perfect weight, she listened for the moment when Tom's voice rose, when it punctuated each word with a gasping sexual rhythm, and when it did, she looked at him and found him looking at her.The not-quite-sympathetic expression had left his eyes a long time ago, replaced by a kind of pride. She actually overheard him talking about her to the aerobics instructor, using her as an example of how well spinning worked. She studied him as her legs worked--thighs like steel now, muscles rippling beneath hard skin--and then, slowly, she smiled.She had been saving her smiles. They had been her best feature even when she was heavy, and she had rationed them, at least for him. She wanted to use them when she was in peak condition, knowing that he would be attracted not so much to her face as to her sculpted form. And so, as their eyes met and the smile creased her face, she saw something new. She saw his eyebrows rise briefly and knew that small movement for something she hadn't seen in years.Flirting.She raised her eyebrows in return, and then looked away. First salvo sent and received. Mating dance initiated. Humiliation about to begin.She went home that night happy for the first time since she had started takingspinning classes. In her two-room apartment whose ocean view was the only thing to recommend it, she danced a small jig, and then smiled again.Her plan would actually work.
She didn't know what would happen after she slept with him. That was the problem she was working on as she drove to the gym in her beloved 1974 Volkswagen Bug. It smelled of oil and it vibrated crazily, but she had owned that car since she bought it used in high school and it had been the one thing she had maintained through all the years.Her job at the i.p. had begun to pay her real money and she could buy a good car for the first time in her life, but she didn't. She couldn't give up her faithful Bug. She never would. She did her best thinking in it. And as she drove up the hill to the gym, she needed a goal that would last her past her revenge on Tom. And, if she were going to be truly healthy, it had to be one that did not continue to play out her revenge fantasy.She parked in her usual space, grabbed her gym bag, and got out, startled to see a police car parked beside the bicycle racks. In the two years she had been coming here, she had never seen a police car. But there was that one month when a paramedic tried to fit exercise into his schedule. Sometimes he parked an ambulance outside. That had unnerved her the first time as well.She pushed her car door shut with her hip, walked around the police car, and headed down the flight of stairs to the club itself. There she saw two policemen at the front desk and the aerobics instructor, a petite thing with too much energy for a human being, sitting on a stool looking stricken. No one was on the machines, and even the hardcore gym rats who spent hours on the free weights were huddled near the Nautilus equipment. From there, any conversation at the front desk could be heard loud and clear.Patricia opened the glass door and came inside. She walked to the desk like she always did, to sign in and pay the extra fee for her special class, when a look from one of the policemen stopped her. The aerobics instructor, whose name she had never learned, raised liquid brown eyes filled with tears."There's no class," she said in a shaky voice. "Tom is dead."The words circled in her head like the wheels on the...
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