Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Killer Year: Stories To Die For", edited by Lee Child

A glorious collection of crime writing’s best new talent

Killer Year is the latest crime/thriller collection from MIRA Books, following the aptly-titled Thriller. The first volume contained a number of established writers – e.g. Brad Thor, John Lescroart, and also Lee Child, who edited this volume. Killer Year, on the other hand, is all about new blood.

It would be easy to write a great deal on each and every one of these 16 stories, but I shall limit myself to a quick nod to the best: Brett Battles’ tale of murder and revenge surrounding an exotic dancing establishment in the Phillippines contains his trademark keen eye for human characters and his brilliantly atmospheric locations. Allison Brennan’s story of grief and state-level politics is a cutting indictment of the privatisation of and the influence of money in government, showing how real people can suffer from politicians greed. Toni McGee Causey’s “A Failure To Communicate” introduces us to Bobbie Faye Sumrall, a true force-of-nature who refuses to play her appointed role as hostage. Other stories and authors to check out would be Jason Pinter’s “The Point Guard” (a botched robbery of a local convenience store has terrible repurcussions), Robert Gregory Browne’s “Bottom Deal” (a down-and-out cop comes to the aid of a friend), and Marcus Sakey’s “Gravity And Need” (a tale of the difference between what someone wants and what someone needs). These are just a handful of the stories contained in Killer Year.

Some of these stories are incredibly short (e.g. J.T. Ellison’s “Prodigal Me” is a mere nine pages long), while others clock in at a more weighty (though still brief) 20-30 pages. What struck me most is that they are all extremely well crafted; each contains enough detail to not leave the reader at sea, tight plotting, great characters, and each story is perfectly summed up. Despite their frugal length, though, every one of these tales is satisfying in itself. Though you will finish wanting more. The best thing about their length is that they lend themselves well to commutes, waiting rooms and lunch-hours.

If, like me, it can sometimes take a little push to try out new authors (if the Waterstone’s 3-for-2 didn’t already get you), Killer Year is the best thing to happen to crime fans. As Lee Child writes in his introduction, this is a “sampler” book, much like the CDs you get mounted on the covers of music magazines, with single tracks by certain up-and-coming bands, aimed at giving you a taste of what is to come. This book contains sample stories by up-and-coming authors, most of whom are likely to enjoy a good deal of success – both because they were included in here, and also because they are just so very good at what they do.

Punchy, expertly crafted thriller tales to whet your appetite for the latest crop of crime writers. Excellent.

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