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by Martin Edwards (editor)
Comma Press, May 2008
256 pages
7.95 GBP
ISBN: 1905583125

I tend to be hard on short story anthologies, simply because so many in the genre field feature the same few names if an alien arrived from outer space, they'd assume, based on the evidence before them, that most crime fiction writers are white, straight, middle-aged men.

So yay for small independent UK publishers Comma Press, who had a most impressive entry into the crime fiction market last year with I.D., their first collection of short stories. And their second outing, M.O. CRIMES OF PRACTICE, is also one to watch out for.

Editor Martin Edwards has compiled a strong selection from an international field of writers, a fair number of which were new to me. Among the more familiar names are Edwards himself, Robert Barnard, Ann Cleeves and Carol Anne Davis.

Barnard's contribution, The Last Get-Together, focuses on an unusual reunion in Italy for a bunch of schoolfriends and inevitably uncovers tensions and secrets. And Cleeves's Going Back has a neat sting in the tale as a woman returns to her former village.

The most unusual and strongest entries come from the lesser-known names. I enjoyed Bernie Crosthwaite's debut novel IF IT BLEEDS, featuring a local newspaper photographer. And her ability to create memorable characters is to the fore in Vivisection, which features a most unusual post-mortem.

Douglas Stewart's Inglenook involves the house move you'd want to avoid, thanks to the meek adoring wife and the flashy domineering husband. Yvonne Eve Walus, one of the standout authors from the previous anthology, has an intriguing creation in chocaholic South African detective Lieutenant Wilma van Rooyen in The Blogging Game, although the ending is screamingly obvious!

I'm not the most sympathetic judge of historical stories, so Davis's Closure and Kate Ellis's Funeral Weather didn't work for me. And the thriller-orientated efforts from Mick Herron (All She Wrote) and Jim Gregson (Outrage) aren't ideally suited to the short form.

Pick of the book, though, is Karline Smith's Dirty, Evil Greed, which is set in 1970s Jamaica and captures both atmosphere and a pervading feel of evil. She's undoubtedly a writer to watch and wow, she's not a white middle-aged man either!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, May 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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