Book Review: Academy Mystery Novellas

Title: Academy Mystery Novellas
Editors: Martin H. Greenberg & Bill Pronzini
Publisher: Academy Chicago Publishers
Genre: Mystery
Length: Short Stories



Rating: 4 tweaks out of 5

I recently read four volumes of the Academy Mystery Novellas in preparation for beginning my own work on a series of mystery short stories intended for a young audience. Imagine my surprise when a research exercise became a truly enjoyable reading experience.

The novellas are organized into five volumes: Women Sleuths, Police Procedurals, Locked Room Puzzles, Great British Detectives, and Women Write Murder. Unfortunately, I only read the first four. There are four novellas in each set, and they are all amazingly different from each other, despite falling into the same category. Some are traditional and serious while some are humourous. Some involve murder, others theft, and some kidnapping. The only common thread between them was that I could not once anticipate the ending, and every time I found myself thinking, “Of course!” when I arrived at the whodunnit.

I admit I have never been one to read mystery, so more experienced readers might find these stories quaint. But I adored them. My one big objection to the mystery genre is that the plot and the mystery is the focus, and I am a character-driven writer and reader. However, I found that in these works of the masters, such as Mignon Eberhart (The Calico Dog), Cornell Woolrich (The Book that Squealed), and Georges Simenon (Storm in the Channel) to name a few, the characters have amazing depth. They are each complex and interesting, particularly when motivations clash and murder is involved.

I recommend these anthologies to anyone new to the genre (like me) because they offer a huge variety and demonstrate that the mystery genre is more than hardboiled private detectives, shooters in shadows, and bodies surrounded by chalk outlines.


About the Editors:

Martin Harry Greenberg (March 1, 1941 – June 25, 2011) was an American academic and speculative fiction anthologist. In total, he compiled 1,298 anthologies and commissioned over 8,200 original short stories.

Bill Pronzini (born April 13, 1943) is an American writer of detective fiction. He is also an active anthologist, having compiled more than 100 collections, most of which focus on mystery, western, and science fiction short stories.