Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick
This collection of short stories consists of twenty-eight stories from a wonderful array of contemporary crime writers which take us on a mystery tour of different locations.
I’ve not always got on well with short stories although I have always appreciated the skill that goes into paring a tale back to the basics whilst leaving the reader satisfied with a small morsel, in that respect the form is more like fine dining than an all you can eat buffet! What I have decided is that while my level of enjoyment of the craft has increased reviewing an entire collection is a difficult task indeed but I will do my very best.
I did start the collection at the beginning, after all because the mystery tour has democratically decided to be published in alphabetical format by first names, one of my favourite, and most reliable authors is first. Ann Cleeves pens a story set around a mystery writer, possibly slightly past her prime, attending a convention for writers. The protagonist’s conviction in her own fame making for cringe-worthy, but oh so realistic reading as she looks down her nose at the newer authors giving away gifts to fans in a bid to gain popularity and the Agatha champion title. Sparse in its word count the story may be, but for those who relish brilliant characterisation, this is not a story that will leave you feeling unsatisfied.
I read a couple more of the stories in order, whistling through Anna Mazzola’s story on a family holiday by a lake, a place that holds a wealth of memories for its protagonist. After a handful I decided to go random, I know, I’m a brave reader! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the editor, Martin Edwards story The Repentance Wood in Dubai where Jeremy is enjoying a break in a plush hotel with sunshine and cocktails, more than that I cannot reveal. After choosing a couple of tales by authors I know well and therefore sure I would enjoy their display of their well-honed craft I dipped my toe into reading the stories written by authors who I haven’t previously tried.
Christine Poulson’s work stands out as an innovative piece of writing as it is made up entirely of items such as a bunch of flowers, a cake, a drinks bill, orders and hotel rooms until the accounting is complete.
I loved the variety of writing styles, the skill that tops the list of evidence and the differing locations as we criss-crossed the globe from the streets of Glasgow to a trek in South Africa as these writers pooled their stories to produce one of the most satisfying collections of short stories I have had the pleasure of reading. This is one book that will sit on my bookshelf as a reference guide to remind me of those authors whose work I haven’t yet tried. Ragnar Jónasson’s A Postcard from Iceland hammering home the message from fellow bloggers that this is a writer that I should read and sooner rather than later, and this wasn’t the only one. For the sake of my TBR I am supremely grateful that the book only contained twenty-eight stories because unusually, there wasn’t a single one which had me thinking, no, that wasn’t really for me.
I’d like to thank Orenda Books for providing me with a review copy of The CWA Short Story Anthology, this review is my unbiased thanks to them and the superb authors for providing me with an absolute wealth of entertainment. If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend you buy a copy of this book. Need more convincing? Catch up with some of the other stops on the blog tour.