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by Lynne Patrick, editor
Crème de la Crime, April 2009
321 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0955707854

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Small indie publisher Crème de la Crime has played a blinder when it comes to persuading a load of the big names in UK crime fiction to cough up short stories for their fund-raising anthology.

The likes of Reginald Hill, Andrew Taylor, Val McDermid and Stephen Booth rub shoulders with some new names who won the right to have their work published in the book. One of the latter, Caroline Shiach, is apparently a consultant haematologist. On the evidence of Does It Always Rain in Manchester?, which has the daughter of a mugged woman investigating why Asian (in the UK sense) wives are being targeted, she could be one to watch in her second career.

Short story anthologies are often the proverbial curate's egg, but CRIMINAL TENDENCIES has very few weak links. I don't know if I missed a key point, but Natasha Cooper's Neutral Territory doesn't even appear to be crime fiction.

Some of the stories have appeared elsewhere – I'd read Carla Banks's Out of Her Mind before, but it stood up wonderfully to re-reading with its lurking sense of menace. And Peter James's 12 Bolinbroke Avenue is a rather unusual ghost story of sorts.

I often read short stories and feel short-changed by a 'home in time for tea' ending. But fortunately we don't get any of those here. Stephen Booth's Top Hard has a very neat twist in the tail. And kudos to Simon Brett for pulling off what, in the wrong hands, could have been a thoroughly cheesy idea, in Work Experience!

In the 'file under quirky' corner, we have class acts in the shape of Reginald Hill's John Brown's Body, which features the macabre art of the boddicomber, whilst Peter Lovesey's The Pomeranian Poisoning, written in letter form, is a delight from start to finish. Poor Old Frankie by Barbara Nadel is set in a psychiatric hospital and has an air of menace to it.

I'm not a great fan of historicals, but Roz Southey's unusual Singer of Lost Songs, featuring a music teacher in 1700s Newcastle, caught my eyes. I wasn't much enamoured of Mary Andrea Clarke's fairly thin Hangman, and Chris Nickson's Home didn't quite gel for me either.

Sheila Quigley's Hungry Eyes, Zoe Sharp's Off Duty and Maureen Carter's Before the Fall are entertaining outings for their regular series characters.

For each copy sold in the UK, £1 is donated to the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline. In the US, $1 goes to the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Dig into your pockets for the book – it's for a good cause and it's worth every penny.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, July 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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