The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 includes:
JENNY BHATT• GAR ANTHONY HAYWOOD• GABINO IGLESIAS• AYA DE LEÓN• LAURA LIPPMAN• DELIA C. PITTS• ALEX SEGURA• FAYE SNOWDEN• LISA UNGER• and others.
Series Editor: STEPH CHA
Guest Editor: ALAFAIR BURKE
“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.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.~Alafair Burke, Introduction to The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021
So many of these stories demonstrate the axiom that character and plot work best hand in hand. In “Return to India”, Jenny Bhatt uses the structure of witness statements to build a tightly woven mystery, while effortlessly balancing a broad cast of diverse characters and voices as they collectively narrate the painful series of facts leading to a crime of violence.
‘Return to India’ is the opening story and sets the tone and theme for my entire collection (Each of Us Killers; 7.13 Books; September 2020.) It deals with work-life difficulties that, to some extent, I had also experienced as an immigrant worker during my first ten years in the Midwest. When I read about another immigrant engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, dying in a racism-driven shooting in Olathe, Kansas, I wanted to explore it fictionally in a way that went beyond the usual headlines and think pieces. I tried telling the story from different points of view at first: the engineer, the engineer’s wife, one of the coworkers. Nothing worked. It was only when I did the Greek chorus style of narration, as in the film Rashomon, that things clicked. Everyone in the story has their own version of the crime and their genuine emotions about it. And that’s all very much a part of the tragedy.~Jenny Bhatt, The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021