Seventeen mostly new, and veddy British, stories from the Crime Writers’ Association (Original Sins, 2011, etc.).
Brevity is not only the soul of wit but the heart of this otherwise rather heartless collection. Four entries bring down the curtain in seven pages or less. Peter James reveals the downside of online romance; Claire Seeber shows a wifely worm turning; L.C. Tyler’s con-man bridegroom meets his match; Dan Waddell’s feverish monologue presents an abortive connubial reunion. The best of the longer (but not much longer) stories, Yvonne Walus’ World Cup serial killer and editor Edwards’ creepy adventures of a ventriloquist’s dummy, compress plots that could have been drawn out to much greater length, making their economy still another virtue. Susan Moody provides a malicious antidote to the obligatory Christmas visit to mother, and Robert Barnard uses a former foster child’s visit to his foster home as the basis for a scenario as bizarre as it is breathless. Amy Myers and Alanna Knight recount cases for signature detectives Jack Colby and Inspector Jeremy Faro. Trickery and double meanings lurk in the clever titles chosen by Bernie Crosthwaite (“The Golden Hour”), Sarah Rayne (“The Unknown Crime”) and H.R.F. Keating (“The Visitor”—the one reprint here, but an unexpectedly haunting Inspector Ghote rarity abundantly worth a long second look). The roster of usual suspects is complemented by Ann Cleeves, Judith Cutler, Carol Anne Davis and Jane Finnis—some of them merely going through their accustomed paces, but never with less than a high professional finish.
The one cavil: very few guilty consciences on display here. Ah, that’s England.