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Criminal Tendencies

Lynne Patrick (ed)

" The guy who’d just tried to kill me didn’t look like much. From the fleeting glimpse I’d caught of him behind the wheel of his brand new soft-top Cadillac, he was short, with less hair than he’d like on his head and more than anyone could possibly want on his chest and forearms. That was as much as I could tell before I was throwing myself sideways."

Reviewed 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 disappoint. 

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. 

Mindstalker 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 publishing Criminal 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 friend's.

 Daniela 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.

Publisher: Crème de la Crime

Publication Date: 2009

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

Editor: Lynne Patrick

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