November 3

CWA Short Story Anthology

Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour.

Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood.

Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

Contributions from:
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy and to Anne Cater for the opportunity to join this blog tour.

A collection of short stories poses problems which I don’t normally encounter, the primary concern being: How do you read them?

A short story anthology may look like a book and act like a book but a volume of short stories is an unusual beast. It changes, it evolves, characters come and go – never to be seen again, there are often chapters of excellence but sometimes you experience a head-scratching moment and ponder what you have just read.  You may laugh for a few pages then be terrified for the next few only to be moved to tears 10 minutes later.  A veritable roller coaster of emotion and experiences. But how do you read them?

When I read a book of short stories I will never begin at the start of the book and work my way through the tales in sequence. I will dip in and out and pick the story titles which sound the most appealing. But that is only the case when the collection is the work of a single author. If there are multiple contributing authors then I will look for names I know and read those first. But how do YOU read them?

I have never read a full volume of short stories without stopping before all the tales are told. I do return and I keep reading, but I need to dip in and out. I find the changes in narrative and style to be more rewarding when I pick up the book afresh rather than when I read multiple stories back to back. Is that how YOU read them?

The problem I had with the CWA Anthology was that there were too many good stories and contributions came from authors I really wanted to read. A problem?   Well yes – all my normal behaviours were scuppered as I wanted to keep reading (not take a break). There were multiple authors I wanted to read first (how to choose?) and the theme through the book gave it much more structure than many collections I have read in the past which had no commonality.

I had lots of fun reading my way through the CWA Short Story Anthology. I was able to maintain my habit of reading out of sequence – I flicked straight to Susi Holliday’s story and started there. But after Susi, Michael Stanley, Ragnar Jónasson and Gordon Brown I realised that this collection was a bit special. Everyone has brought their “A-Game”.

For the CWA Anthology you do feel that we are being treated to the some of the finest story telling.  A single author collection of short stories can sometimes suffer a little…”chuck in the story about the wombat we need another 8,000 words”.  But this collection is suffering an embarrassment of talent. There was page after page of brilliant narrative and I loved ending one tale and jumping back to the index to find the next journey.

Look at the contributor list – stellar. If you read crime fiction then you should own this book, simple as that.

 

The CWA Short Story Anthology is published by Orenda Books on 15 November 2017. A copy can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/CWA-Short-Story-Anthology-Mystery-ebook/dp/B075YQ9PGS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1509658571&sr=1-1

 

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October 2

Sleep No More – P.D. James

The acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’, P. D. James, was a past master of the short story, weaving together motifs of the Golden Age of crime-writing with deep psychological insight to create gripping, suspenseful tales. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories contained four of these perfectly formed stories, and this companion volume contains a further six, published here together for the first time.

As the six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each. Bullying schoolmasters receive their comeuppance, unhappy marriages and childhoods are avenged, a murder in the small hours of Christmas Day puts an end to the vicious new lord of the manor, and, from the safety of his nursing home, an octogenarian exerts exquisite retribution.

The punishments inflicted on the guilty are fittingly severe, but here they are meted out by the unseen forces of natural justice rather than the institutions of the law. Once again, P. D. James shows her expert control of the short-story form, conjuring motives and scenarios with complete conviction, and each with a satisfying twist in the tail.

 

My thanks to Sophie at Faber for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

One of my earliest memories of crime drama was watching Shroud for a Nightingale on tv with my mum. Shroud was a PD James story and I still remember being gripped by the story and being particularly disappointed when it ended.

I picked up all the PD James novels I could find once Shroud had finished and I spent many happy hours catching up on the stories of Adam Dalgliesh. I was a firm fan by then and over the next three decades I would always seek out a new PD James novel on release.

Now, many months after her death I get to read a new collection of stories – six in all – gathered in a new book from Faber & Faber: Sleep No More. As soon as I started on the first story I was caught up in her world once again. Her writing style feels so formal against modern books yet the tales she tells seem timeless.

The six stories collected in Sleep No More are:
The Yo-Yo
The Victim
The Murder of Santa Claus
The Girl Who Loved Graveyards
A Very Desirable Residence and
Mr Millcroft’s Birthday

My favourites were most certainly the 3rd and 4th in the above list. The Murder of Santa Claus a very nicely worked murder tale which was almost certainly mirroring the style of an Agatha Christie tale.

The Girl Who Loved Graveyards was the darkest of the collection. While each story has a murder to consider Graveyards was the “unfiltered” tale and the author did not shy away from the crime, it was vividly described to shocking effect.

Short stories are exactly that – short. This collection comes in at around 170 pages in length and if I were ordering the book online I’d like to have known that ahead of time. It is a cracking collection of cleverly written tales, which I read in a couple of hours.

But the treat in Sleep No More is the class of the author’s storytelling. I loved reading this one and the variety of approaches was a treat. A twist, a clever narrative, that shocking ending and the clever reveals which have you flicking back to see where you missed the clue.

She was one of the best at what she did, her work lives on and Sleep No More only enhances my appreciation of her skills.

 

Sleep No More is published by Faber & Faber and is available in Hardback and Digital formats – you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleep-No-More-Murderous-Tales-ebook/dp/B0721NSJZW/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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