I thought I’d be able to add new posts on this page and keep all the reviews together, but I haven’t found how to do this. I shall put all future reviews on the main blog.
Crime After Crime Ed Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and Stephen Puleston
I was sent a review copy of this anthology.
A Good Collection of Dark Crime Shorts
This is an anthology of twelve crime short stories, each by a different author, except for Don Nixon, who has two included.
Some I liked better than others, but I think this was just a matter of personal taste, because they are all good and some are excellent. As I read each one, I thought, “I think that’s my favourite so far,” but when I looked back at the previous ones, I saw that this wasn’t necessarily true. I am hard pressed to pick a favourite. I really like The Courgette House because it’s a well-written police procedural encapsulated in short story form, though I felt the twist was a little flat. The Most Whimsical Jape of the Year stood out because I really didn’t see that twist coming. Blood in Summer was atmospheric, and captured the essence of fourteen year old boys.
A Killer Week is excellent, fast paced, and with some lovely description. There were two things which I felt didn’t work so well; one was that there was almost too much domestic detail with the police officers’ mini-chapters, to the point of distraction. The second (a matter of voice) I can’t really go into without introducing a spoiler. Despite these quibbles, I liked it a great deal and it’s one of my favourites.
I liked the voice in Rat Trap.
The last story, “The Execution,” had me wondering about Sheriff Wilson Underwood’s motivations. I think of all of the stories, this is the one I will ponder about most.
In general these are gritty crime stories. I didn’t find myself empathising with any of the characters, which is just as well, since in some stories the main character was the villain. This is often the case with a short story; there simply isn’t time to get to know the people sufficiently to care about them. Most of the stories had an unforeseen twist which I liked, and all the writing styles are engaging, even if some of the crime sub-genres aren’t my favourite.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for short crime stories. It’s great to see the resurgence of the short story as an art form, since the dark short story has been languishing in Britain for a number of years now. In the US the art form has survived much better, so I think audiences there will be pleased with this collection, particularly as some of the stories are set in the US.
Stephen Leather, who wrote the foreword, is right to say that short stories are difficult to write well, but all these authors have done so.
I liked the way there is a short author biography at the end of each story. Not only does it put the stories in context, it means I can look up the authors to see what else they have written.