The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Volume 7

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Short Stories Challenge – Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Published December 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Hogmanay Homicide all about?:

Set in the early 1900’s, Hogmanay Homicide tells the story of friends at a New Year’s Eve house party where one of them is brutally murdered. The question is, which one of the friends did the deed?

What did I think?:

I’m loving my short stories challenge as it continues especially with collections like these where I find so many new to me authors that I’ve never heard of before. Edward Marston is a pseudonym for the British author Keith Miles who has written a number of different novels in a variety of genres from historical fiction and mystery to children’s books. This collection so far has featured a number of contemporary crime narratives so I found it quite refreshing to read something based much earlier in time that had a very classic, Edwardian feel to it.

Our main character in Hogmanay Homicide is Hawley Crippen, married to Cora for a number of years yet exhibiting quite a strained relationship with his wife who is prominent in the theatre world, singing opera for a living. They decide to host a New Year’s Eve party, something he is dreading as he thinks very little of some of the invited guests. They consist of Cora’s good friend Mabel, a magician and his assistant, a brash Scotsman called Angus and a Frenchman called Landru, whom Huxley is particularly suspicious of.

So, we’ve all been at one of those parties where too much of the old drink is taken and the inebriated individual becomes loud, opinionated and incredibly irritating. This is what happens at this particular party with one guest which leads to horrific consequences when the drunkard ends up at the bottom of the cellar stairs, head smashed in with a large piece of coal. Not the best start to a New Year you might say! Hawley is determined that no-one will leave the house until he figures out who the villain is and what reason they had to murder the guest.

As I mentioned earlier, I did enjoy that this story was set in the 1900’s in comparison to more contemporary crime I’ve read recently. For a while at least, I did also enjoy the writing style although I never particularly warmed to any of the characters. The magician was bland, his female assistant more so, Angus was just a caricature of a typical Scotsman – which I have to admit annoyed me slightly and I didn’t feel either Hawley or his wife Cora had any real redeeming features at all which would make me interested in them. The only slightly intriguing character for me was the Frenchman, Landru and that was mainly because of the air of mystery that surrounded him and the reasons why he was in the country. There were parts I really enjoyed about this little story despite my misgivings however and I wouldn’t mind trying something else by this author.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Published March 22, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Enough Of This Shit Already all about?:

Teenager Alana is suffering after a break-up with her boyfriend and an incident at a party with popular “jock” Brad Johnson. This short piece of fiction follows her as she takes justice into her own hands.

What did I think?:

I’ve never come across the author of this story, Tony Black before but in the introduction to this collection he is described as a “relative newcomer” to crime fiction by the editor, Maxim Jakubowski. After a bit more research I’ve discovered he is most famous for his tartan noir novels and to date has written thirteen novels, a number of novellas and contributed to quite a few collections like this one. As a proud Scot myself, I’m a bit ashamed that I haven’t heard of him previously and after reading this little belter of a story, will be sure to pick up something from his back catalogue.

There were two things that surprised me about this story. First of all, I was quite surprised at how short it was taking just five minutes to read from start to finish and secondly, the actual content of the story. I mean, when you read a certain genre you don’t expect it to be all love, peace and harmony of course and perhaps the title of the piece threw me off slightly – maybe I was anticipating something humorous? I’m not sure but what I ended up getting was an amazing literary ride with hugely dark and twisty undercurrents.

I don’t want to ruin things for anybody who hasn’t read this story before so apologies for any vagueness but as I’ve said before in some of the other posts for my Short Stories Challenge, the real beauty of a story like this comes when you read it for yourself. Our main character is a teenage girl called Alana and from the very first line we get a hint of her mindset:

“Shopping is, like, my way of getting over Steve…until the meds kick in anyway.”

Alana has recently broken up with her boyfriend, Steve after he caught her at a party underneath another guy, Brad Johnson. Brad is now giving Alana quite a lot of grief in the way that some teenage boys do, especially when they are showing off in front of their friends. Alana manages to hold her own admirably when he is around, even through her misery and the poisonous remarks of the other girls at school who are calling her every name under the sun. The worst part about the entire incident however is that Alana cannot remember what happened and it is pretty certain that she wasn’t drunk or taking drugs at the time. Her mother is terribly worried about her state of mind although it is clear that Alana hasn’t told her exactly what happened at the party. Now her situation is about to get a hell of a lot worse when a particular type of test she buys from the pharmacy turns blue and the path she chooses to go down to ease her suffering may not seem like the particularly conventional type.

This short story packs an incredible punch. The author weaves so much anger, distress and all-round chilling events into just a few pages and then blows everything out of the water with a real humdinger of an ending that certainly had me biting my nails down to the knuckle as I marvelled at his talent with words. It’s also a story that has had me thinking about it long after finishing, especially imagining what would come next if the author had continued to write. Definitely the mark of a terrific author in my opinion and one I’m excited to read more from!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Published October 4, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Rat In The Attic all about?:

When a police inspector goes to investigate a crime reported by an older member of his community he gets a lot more than he bargained for which results in an unexpected arrest.

What did I think?:

Oh dear. I’m afraid this isn’t going to be a terribly positive review. I think collections that feature stories from multiple authors do suffer occasionally from being a bit hit and miss and unfortunately this story was a miss for me. Our narrator is a police inspector and he is called out to see an older woman, Mary Hannigan whom the police like to keep a bit of an eye on as her husband passed away fairly recently and she is living on her own. He has been called out as the woman has reported a murder which is she is very distressed over – her cat, Tammy.

Mary is convinced that her neighbour, Artie Moran had a hand in her beloved cat’s death. In fact, she is certain that he hit it with his van, despite there being no visible injuries on the cat and the fact that Artie’s van has not moved recently, being covered with a visible layer of snow. Artie feels quite sorry for his poor neighbour even though he may have not had anything to do with the death of the cat and tells the inspector to give her a fifty euro note (to pay for a new cat!).

It is only when the inspector is out trying to bury the creature in the frozen ground that he notices something curious. Both Mary and Artie’s roofs are the only ones that are not covered in snow and the inspector queries whether she has insulation installed as it seems the heat is all escaping through her roof. Poor Mary is togged up in multiple layers and it is so cold in the house that their breath is clearly visible but Mary insists her late husband was involved with the insulation and her electricity bill has become so high recently that she has no choice but to dress warm and reduce the amount of time she has the heating on for. This mystery is finally solved when the inspector goes up to Mary’s attic where she warns him about the rat that she has heard moving up around there.

I’m not going to give away the end of the story but there is a lot more going on to it then I expected at the beginning. It’s on the shorter side as short stories go and I’m not sure whether the length of the story meant that I wasn’t as invested in the characters as I perhaps would have been if there was more time to get to know them. There was a part right at the ending which I thought was a nice touch and made the character of the police inspector slightly more interesting but it wasn’t believable enough for me unfortunately. I haven’t read any of Brian McGilloway’s work before and perhaps it wasn’t the best introduction to his work as this short story really wasn’t for me.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – July to September

Published July 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months of short stories! This little lot should see me through into the autumn.

Week beginning 6th July

Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 13th July

Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 20th July

The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 27th July

Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 3rd August

Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The

Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 10th August

Necessary Women by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 17th August

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 24th August

Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Week beginning 31st August

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 7th September

The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Week beginning 14th September

Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st September

The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th September

The Wedding Gig by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Short Stories Challenge – Bloodsport by Tom Cain from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Published June 6, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Bloodsport all about?:

Bloodsport tells the story of a would-be assassin and his target as he plots and carries out his attack.

What did I think?:

Bloodsport by Tom Cain is one of the shorter stories in this crime collection and came as quite a nice surprise – particularly at the end. I’m not familiar with any of Tom Cain’s work but decided to read up a bit on him as this story intrigued me so much. Tom Cain is actually a pen name and the author’s real name is Daniel Thomas, a British journalist by trade but has written a number of thriller novels including The Accident Man featuring protagonist Samuel Carver.

The story begins with quite a bang (well…almost) as we are taken into the mind of an assassin called Carver (same one as his novels? Hard to tell) as he is looking down the sniper sight of his rifle at a couple who appear to be giving an interview to the mass media. Carver is actually feeling quite sorry for the wife who seems like a decent and loyal human being and who offers her full support to her husband, no matter if she is wrong for doing so in the eyes of Carver himself. The reader begins to think that this man, the “target,” must be someone quite important. In fact, he is the Prime Minister and what he has done boils down to one name – Mike Swift, a soldier who has died on duty in Afghanistan.

“After all the politician’s lies, the corruption, the greed, the mountainous debts, the obsessive control freakery and the rampant incompetence, it had taken the death of a single soldier in Afghanistan to shift Carver out of the general herd of pissed-off, moaning but essentially inert citizens, into a group of one: the man who was going to do something about it.”

And Carver is one pissed-off citizen. His main problem is that the public and the soldiers family have been lied to. The report on his death stated that he was killed in a helicopter accident but in fact the helicopter hadn’t turned up when Swift requested it at all. They cost too much money you see. And as a result, the Taliban get hold of Swift and leave his body to be found completely mutilated. Beware, you may need a strong stomach to read on…

“There’s something about a body with the skin flayed off its limbs, the entrails neatly piled upon a slit-open stomach and a crudely-carved, gaping wound where the genitalia should be that sends a powerful message.”

Carver is disgusted by what he finds out. Retired from the special service himself, he has ways and means of getting to the truth behind the deception and decides to act on it. He decides that this should happen with force and ever so publicly so that the powers that be can understand perhaps half of what that poor soldier must have went through. Carver uses all his contacts and personal experience and manages to get into a perfect spot up a tree, completely camouflaged with his rifle at the ready. He has found out that the Prime Minister is at his holiday home and will give a few photographic opportunities with his wife to the general press. Think: “Oh look how lovely and rich and privileged and lucky we are!” sort of thing.

I felt that this was a brilliant contemporary read that could well describe the situation we find ourselves right now. It kind of reminded me a little of the outpouring of grief and anger when a local soldier was killed in horrific circumstances in London fairly recently. What I wasn’t prepared for however, was the ending. And there is no way I am going to spoil it. It had me on the edge of my seat, not knowing what was going to happen next and when it ended I actually laughed a little. Don’t worry, I’m in no way sadistic but when you read it too you will understand. After finishing this story it really made me want to explore the authors other works. He writes with such fantastic clarity and makes everything feel authentic whilst ramping up the tension and suspense. I have to say that it’s a powerful and dramatic piece of fiction that left me hungry for more, I’m certain that I’ll find the same in his novels and am excited to give one a go.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Smoothest Way Is Full Of Stones by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater