This collection of short stories by some of the best known names in crime fiction was published in May this year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of CrimeFest, an international convention held each year in Bristol for lovers of and writers of crime fiction. I've never been to this, and it probably wouldn't suit me - I'm pretty choosy about my crime fiction and prefer the occasional dip rather then a continuous diet. But I was attracted to the idea of reading stories by some authors I admire and others, many quite famous, who I've never read. No Exit Press Kindly sent me a review copy and I whizzed through it in no time. With a foreword by Peter James, an introduction by Martin Edwards, and stories by names such as Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Sophie Hannah and Andrew Taylor, not to mention the great founding mother of Scandi Noir Maj Sjöwall, how could this possibly be anything but a joy to read?
As you would expect, the stories vary tremendously in style and tone. I very much enjoyed the first one in the collection, 'The Hired Man' by Bill Beverley, of whom I'd never heard - a clever, understated story of a young man who is called upon to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a notorious gangster, with unpredictable consequences.
Some stories rely on much-loved traditions. Among them are Simon Brett's 'The Last Locked Room' which concerns a young man's attempt to solve the mystery of his grandfather's death - the old man was found shot inside his locked study with no sign of a weapon anywhere to be found. A variation on the genre is Ann Cleeves' 'Moses and the Locked Tent Mystery' a story set in Serengeti National Park in Africa and involving an apparently impossible murder in a guarded tent.
There's humour in several stories, notably Mick Herron's 'How many cats have you killed' (apparently a question often asked of crime writers at conferences) - the story is very tongue in cheek, and purports to reveal the truth about Herron's own life as a spy and his own search for a villain at the current crime fest.This one is very entertaining as is James Sallis's 'Freezer Burn', which begins with the memorable line: 'Within a week of thawing Daddy out, we knew something was wrong' - Daddy having been revived from cryogenic storage and claiming, much to his children's shock and disbelief, that he had been a freelance assassin.
If you love nordic noir, there's a real treat in Yrsa Siguröardóttir's 'Road Trip' - set in deep winter in her native Iceland, it tells of a journalist and a photographer who get stranded in a frozen landscape on their way to interview a boy who, long ago, had been convicted of a terrible crime but who is now thought to be innocent. There is real brooding menace here, and a scary ending. Then there's Maj Sjöwall's 'Long Time No See', translated by Catherine Edwards,set in a cold, snowy Swedish January, which recounts an ultimately fatal encounter between two women, one poverty stricken and the other a successful businesswoman.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Lots of variety and plenty to enjoy. If you love contemporary crime and fancy some short stories, this is the book for you.