Veteran author/editor Edwards (Past Crimes, 1999, etc.) collects 18 new English stories that mostly manage to shine even though they have little to do with the announced emphasis on original sin.
You’d expect the Brits to excel in understated wit, and that’s exactly what you find in Peter Lovesey’s negotiations between a famous star and her prospective ghostwriter, Chris Simms’s unexpectedly ironic take on a pair of thieving druggies who set their sights on the wrong target, Christopher Fowler’s ingenious immersion of Bryant and May in a pea-souper that almost conceals a murderer’s culpability, Sophie Hannah’s cold-bloodedly efficient meeting between ex-friends who both had their eyes on the same desirable residence, Chris Ewan’s series of negotiations between a female assassin and her weaselly client, editor Edwards’s creepy inheritance from a grandfather of specialized tastes, and Christine Poulson’s drama of adultery gone wrong, which would be utterly commonplace if it weren’t narrated by a fish. Reginald Hill and Rick Mofina plumb deeper waters, the first in a recollection of what might be clerical abuse, the second in a compassionate account of a guilt-ridden Mountie’s last case. The cast is rounded out by Simon Brett (Charles Paris in Richard II), Ann Cleeves (a wife, her lover, and her taxidermist husband), Zoë Sharp (a paparazza photographs a cheating bridegroom), Andrew Taylor (a suspicious one-car fatality), and Charles Todd (Ian Rutledge, Hamish MacLeod, and a triple killer make a wartime Channel crossing), Laura Wilson, Barbara Nadel, Tim Heald, and Kate Ellis.
Though it lacks the originality or sinfulness of the best recent American collections, hard to beat for story-by-story enjoyment.