by Daniela I. Norris
Crime-writing is a bit like a melon - the title description isn't
always a good indication of what you'll find inside. Then you cut it
open - never sure whether it'll be juicy and delicious or disappointing
and bitter. The tales in this collection of twenty-six crime short
stories are all juicy – some less than others, but none
Starting with Out of Her Mind by
Carla Banks - the story of a writer who writes obsessively, until the
inevitable end which writes itself - the reader gets sucked in right
away and discovers a fascinating range of tales (from "cozies" to
slightly more gory stories, but, never excessively so). Petty thieves,
robbers, murderers as well as cops and private detectives, even a
professional female bodyguard – are all present in a well-woven web of
crime and, often, punishment.
Simon Brett's Work Experience is
an enjoyable "gotcha" story that ends as many crime stories should –
with a smile and a wink at the reader. So does Zoë Sharp's Off Duty, starring
a female bodyguard who will not move a finger to protect the
undeserving. Another sensitive, touching short-short (that perhaps
doesn't belong in a crime collection. nonetheless, it is still very
enjoyable) is Natasha Cooper's Neutral
Territory, touching on the theme of the bitter-sweet
flavor of divorce.
by Martin Edwards has a chilling twist in the tail, as does The Man with the Pram by
Peter Guttridge. The latter is the story of Anna, a young immigrant
worker, and her misadventures while struggling to make a living.
Another gripping short tale is Sophie Hannah's The Octopus Nest
which won the Daphne Du Maurier short story prize. It is the kind of
situation you won't want to come home to. And of course, crime-masters
Reginald Hill, Andrew Taylor, Peter Lovesey and Martin Edwards don't
disappoint. This is expected.
But those who will read this
anthology just to get a thrill from these established writers will be
pleasantly surprised by the fresh new voices represented here, such as
Caroline Shiach and Chris Nickson. Does
It Always Rain in Manchester? by Shiach and Home by Nickson are
the winners of the Criminal
Tendencies Competition, and are refreshing tales by
emerging crime-writing talents. What lacks in experience is compensated
by the originality of the subject-matter. The former starts with
seemingly-random muggings of women in Manchester, and the latter with a
felon who's been sentenced to seven-year transportation to the colonies
in 18th century England.
Lesley Cookman's Push! has an
extremely satisfying ending, as does Val McDermid's Sneeze for Danger.
Hardly surprising that a veteran crime-writer like McDermid carries us
along nicely and then leaves us feeling elated. It is the mixture
between crime-pros like her and other, less known names that gives this
collection its unique flavor.
Kudos to Crème de la Crime for
Tendencies at a time when not many publishing houses take
on short story collections. Like a bag of crisps, if you start with the
first tale, you'll inevitably need to read them all before you put the
book down. While crisps are bad for you, these short stories are not
only delicious, but also nutritious. And did I mention they give € 1
from each copy sold to the UK National Breast-cancer Helpline? Even
more of a reason to invest in your own copy rather than borrow a
I. Norris is a former diplomat, turned
writer. The author of numerous short stories, articles and two books
due out in 2009, she is currently working on a series of political
thrillers set at the United Nations in Geneva.
She is Contributing Editor with the Geneva Times and book reviewer on
World Radio Switzerland’s Bookmark program.
de la Crime
Editor: Lynne Patrick
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Publisher's Website: Crème de la Crime
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