In their everwidening search for hardedged themes, editors Ripley and Jakubowski (Fresh Blood 2, 1998, etc.), have now latched on to villains getting off scot-free despite their bad behavior. Of these 15 episodes, most by newcomers to the British crime writing scene, only editor Ripley (Angel solves a bawdypub robbery), Denise Mina (a geriatric nurse gets her comeuppance), and Rob Ryan (a state trooper blasts away) call their crooks to account, although coeditor Jakubowski and H.R. McGregor do render their stories as firstperson confessions. The true standout is from the one relatively old hand, Minette Walters, who champions the cause of an abused wife, but almost as noteworthy is Manda Scott's veterinarian on house call. As for the rest, they either rely on that old standby, the last-sentence twist (Paul Johnston's writer, Phil Andrews’s plumber, Adam Lloyd Baker's gambler, Paul Charles's tattoo artist) or blithely bypass plausibility in the manner of Martyn Waites (an actor empathizes with Sweeney Todd), Peter Gutteridge (goodbye to the wives and the neighbors), and Lee Childs (downswing in a red Firebird). Andrea Badenoch turns to that other cliché, the drunk and the bartender, but the tale she tells is horrific, with lingering aftershocks for all concerned, including the reader.
If not quite the new wave of crime writing the editors promise, a solid evening's reading for the anticozy enthusiast.