Eager to sink my teeth into a collection of criminal tales, I turned to this book of short stories by a variety of authors, many of whom I have never read before. The collection is quite varied and provides the reader with unique stories about how random death can be and how murder lurks around every corner. Here are some brief sentiments on each of the stories in this collection:
Hard Time, by Roger A. Price
A short piece in which two prison officials attempt to tackle the issue of handling a tough prisoner. All those who have shared a cell with him ended up being roughed up and assaulted in short order. A plan is hatched that might help quell the attacks and provide the problem inmate with some issues of his own.
A Certain Man was Sick, by Charlie Cochrane
When a choral tenor falls dead in the middle of Evensong, all eyes look to the abby organist. The two men have had a feud for decades over a personal issue that seems quite trivial. Poisoned by a piece of fudge, the tenor seems to have accepted an odd early birthday gift. An inquest and trial are quick and to the point, but one other member of the choir chooses to investigate on his own years later. The truth will arise, like a well-prepared descant.
The Message, by D.J. Harrison
Securing a large loan for an upstart cheap flight airline, the protagonist soon finds herself on the wrong end of an attack in which she loses a thumb. With no known reason for the attack, she reaches out to her employer, who promises to gather all parties for a discussion. Once the reason for the attack is expressed and apologies made, it would seem all is better. However, one dastardly act deserves another…
The Encounter, by A.A. Chaudhuri
Megan Beaumont is an award-winning author, but has lost her way after she is attacked and raped in her home. The attack left her with complete amnesia and she is unable to continue writing, especially after learning that her attacker is likely responsible for her husband’s murder. Fleeing to a remote location, Megan meets Dan, who does not know her but is eager to help with writer’s block. He agrees to tell her a story that will likely unburden him as well as provide her with the fodder for a new crime bestseller. The plot thickens from there…
Land’s End, by J.M. Hewitt
Alex Harvey is a private detective and has recently returned from quite the mission. With a rescued client in tow, Alex takes her to his family home in hopes of getting some rest and relaxation. However, when they arrive, a former belle of Alex’s explains that her son has gone missing. Alex is willing to help her, as she is almost blood family, but something does not add up in her story.
Room 228, by Leo McNeir
Marnie Walker is known for her architectural work and jumped at the opportunity when asked to redesign a small hotel. When she and her partner arrive to see the finished product, they learn a little about the original hotel that stood in this place. There was an unsolved murder that took place in one of the guest rooms, which garnered some popularity soon thereafter. When Marnie arrives to be interviewed about the relaunch, she sees one guest having trouble trying to secure room 228, in which he has stayed many times over the years. A little sleuth work and Marnie may know what’s going on, but it is still somewhat mysterious.
Murder Hole, by Rob Parker
In this piece, Captain Benjamin Bracken is facing a hearing surrounding his discharge from the British Armed Forces. He appears ready to enter a plea of guilty to the charges being levied against him, but first the reader learns of the events that led up to this. After a chopper crash, Bracken and one other soldier are able to escape, slipping into a sewer system to protect themselves. While the other soldier sustains some injuries, Bracken does all he can with limited rations. He compares events to a murder hole, where one has limited insight into what is going on, but can make some minimal defensive maneuvers. While all those in the hearing listen to his story, the Judge Advocate General asks for his plea after hearing the evidence, leaving Captain Bracken to await his fate.
Halfway, by E.R. Fallon
Matty is a young man with a great deal of potential. His father skipped out years back, leaving his mother to raise him and instil some morals. After Matty heads out for the day, a gentleman shows up at the house, implying that Matty might be involved in something that needs fixing. There’s a solution, but it’s not a great one. Our protagonist does not take well to the options, forcing the man with the firm resolve to leave… for now.
Child of the Night, by Thomas Laird
Back in Victorian England, a man wandered the streets and killed prostitutes. He was wanted by Scotland Yard, who deemed him Jack and Ripper. But, he is no Jack at all, rather Francis S. Amjac. Fearing that things are too intense in London, Amjac sets sail for Chicago, where he feels able to blend in with the many other criminals. Fast forward to 2017 and Michael Parisi has just earned a detective’s shield with the Chicago Police Department. He’s called to the scene of a horrific crime, in which a young woman has been mutilated. He and his partner wonder who could be so sick as to leave a woman in this state. Parisi comes to the job with a passion for reading, particularly about the criminal element. Could one of those men from his book have influenced a new killer in Chicago?
Children’s Games, by Evan B. Pollock
When a young woman is found murdered in her bedroom, the obvious suspect soon comes to light. However, there is a great deal of confusion, as a ghost may have been involved in the homicide. The police and two legal representatives bandy this idea about, sure that it is just the fantasy-laden mind of some others in the family. However, with a body bludgeoned by a steel ball, someone is responsible, likely of the living variety. But who could have done it and why?
I always love to find new authors whose writing is worth further exploration. This collection of short stories has done just that, with a brief editorial note at the end of each to direct the reader towards some other publications that might be of interest. Some of the stories in this collection are quite short, while others provide more heft and therefore some thought must go into the plot development. I found myself leaning towards certain pieces over others, which is to be expected in a book full of different writing styles. Most of these pieces held my attention, though some were less than formidable. I am eager to see what others feel about this collection and if there are authors they would recommend. Being a fan of A.A. Chaudhuri (and hers being the only work I have read before this collection), I would certainly turn to her. Others, like Leo McNeir and Charlie Cochrane left me eager to try some of their other work. I hope to see some added banter from other readers/reviewers for more insight.
Kudos, all those authors who have contributed to this piece, for your hard work and crime stories. I certainly enjoyed this collection, which I devoured in a single day!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons