The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 edited by Steph Cha and Alafair Burke

EXCERPT: Taken from Let Her Be by Lisa Unger – We move away, the bell ringing as we exit. Emily is far ahead of me, out in the night. She doesn’t hear him say before the door closes: “They say the brother did it. There was always something off about that boy.”

I pretend I didn’t hear it, don’t let it upset me the way it used to. There were endless rumours then – a beautiful young girl dies by accident, and no one wants to accept that. No one wants to accept the randomness of it all.

Believe me, I get it.

ABOUT ‘THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE 2021’: Steph Cha, a rising star who brings a fresh perspective as series editor, takes the helm of the new TheBest American Mystery and Suspense, with best-selling crime novelist Alafair Burke joining her as the first guest editor.

Beginning with the 2021 volume, the annual short story anthology The Best American Mystery Stories will become The Best American Mystery and Suspense. New series editor Steph Cha and best-selling guest editor Alafair Burke select the best short mystery and suspense fiction of the year.

“Crime writers, forgive the pun, are killing it right now creatively,” writes guest editor Alafair Burke in her introduction. “It was difficult—painful even—to narrow this year’s Best American Mystery and Suspense to only twenty stories.” Spanning from a mediocre spa in Florida, to New York’s gritty East Village, to death row in Alabama, this collection reveals boundless suspense in small, quiet moments, offering startling twists in the least likely of places. From a powerful response to hateful bullying, to a fight for health care, to a gripping desperation to vote, these stories are equal parts shocking, devastating, and enthralling, revealing the tension pulsing through our everyday lives and affirming that mystery and suspense writing is better than ever before.

MY THOUGHTS: There’s a very mixed bag of stories in this year’s collection. There is a small handful of excellent stories: Neighbours by Nikki Dolsan; Green Eyed Monster by Charis Jones; Slow Burner by Laura Lippman; and Let Her Be by Lisa Unger. But the majority of the stories sat in the 2.5 – 3.5 range for me.

My biggest gripe about most of the stories were that they weren’t suspenseful, nor were they a mystery. The ones I have rated highly were either intriguing, or had my heart pounding as I frantically flipped virtual pages.

There were a couple of stories that I thought were totally pointless, and one that seemed to me like a chapter extracted from a book. It seemed that there ought to have been something before it, and definitely something after it. But most were simply average.

Here’s a list of the contents and my ratings:
1. Return to India by Jenny Bhatt ⭐⭐
2. Swaj by Christopher Bolton ⭐⭐⭐.5
3. Neighbours by Nikki Dolson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. Mala Suerte by E. Gabriel Flores ⭐⭐⭐
5. Where I Belong by Alison Gaylin ⭐⭐⭐.5
6. With Footnotes and References by Gar Anthony Haywood ⭐⭐⭐.5
7. The Good Thief by Ravi Howard ⭐⭐⭐
8. Everything is Going to be Okay by Gabino Iglesias ⭐⭐⭐
9. Green Eyed Monster by Charis Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
10. Potato Sandwich Days by Preston Lang ⭐⭐
11. Frederick Douglass Elementary by Aya de León ⭐⭐.5
12. Infinity Sky by Kristen Lepionka ⭐⭐.5
13. Slow Burner Laura Lippman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
14. Mr Forble by Joanna Pearson ⭐⭐
15. The Killer by Delia Pitts ⭐⭐.5
16. Wings Beating by Eliot Schrefer ⭐⭐⭐⭐
17. 90 Miles by Alex Segura ⭐⭐
18. Land of Promise by Brian Silverman ⭐⭐.5
19. One Bullet, One Vote by Faye Snowden ⭐⭐⭐.5
20. Let Her Be by Lisa Unger ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Overall rating – ⭐⭐⭐.25

#TheBestAmericanMysteryandSuspense2021 #NetGalley

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #domesticdrama #familydrama #mystery #historicalfiction #murdermystery #privateinvestigator #shortstories #psychologicalthriller #romanticsuspense

THE AUTHORS: STEPH CHA is the author of the Juniper Song mystery series and Your House Will Pay, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller and has been nominated for a Young Lions Fiction Award, a Macavity Award, a Lefty Award, a Barry Award, and a Dagger Award, as well as long-listed for the Aspen Prize. She’s an editor and critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she edited the noir section for almost five years. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Alafair Burke is the New York Times, Edgar-nominated author of fourteen crime novels, including The Ex, The Wife, The Better Sister, and the forthcoming Find Me. She is also the co-author of several novels with Mary Higgins Clark. A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Author: sandysbookaday

I love good quality chocolate. I love the ocean and love to be in, on or beside it. I read any and every where. I am a proud mum and Nana. I like wine, gin, Southern Comfort, a cold Heineken on a hot day. I am very versatile like that. I cross stitch, do jigsaws, garden, and work on a farm. I am an occasional scribbler. I have far too many books I want to read to ever find the time to die. I am an active member of Goodreads as Sandy *the world could end while I was reading and I would never notice* and review on Amazon under the name Sandyj21. My Goodreads reviews are automatically linked to my Facebook page. Groups I belong to and participate in on Goodreads include: The Mystery, Crime and Thriller Group; Mysteries and Crime Thrillers; Psychological Thrillers; Reading for Pleasure; Crime Detective Mystery Thrillers; English Mysteries; Dead Good Crime; Kindle English Mystery, All About Books and NZ Readers. April 2016 I made the Top 1% of Goodreads reviewers (As follows) Hello Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*, In our community of readers, you stand out in a notable way: You're one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads! With every rave and every pan, with every excited GIF and every critical assessment, you've helped the Goodreads community get closer to a very important milestone – the 50 Million Reviews mark!

3 thoughts on “The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 edited by Steph Cha and Alafair Burke”

  1. Great review Sandy. That is one problem with anthologies for me, some I love, many are just meh. I will write down the ones you loved and if my library gets this one, I will read those ones. I know, we might like different ones, but, I trust your judgement. 📚😀💖

    Liked by 1 person

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