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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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You only have to look at the cover of this book to see some of the huge names who have contributed stories to this anthology in aid of Oxfam. In total, there are twenty-seven stories, most of them original, and the overall quality is exceptionally high. There are a few that are really quite short, but most of them are pretty substantial and a few of them star the detective for whom the author is famous. As well as straightforward crime/detection, there are examples of both horror and sci-fi with a crime element, and black humour puts in more than one appearance.

In any anthology some stories are going to be stronger, or more to the reader's taste, than others. There were only a couple of stories that I really didn't enjoy, for my usual reasons - excessive and gratuitous language/violence etc - but the majority rated at 4 or 5 stars for me. So many of them were good that it's hard to single any out, but some of the standouts for me were...

Yrsa Sigurdardottir's Black Sky - We know Sigurdardottir can write crime and horror, but in this chilling story she shows that she can also write proper science-based sci-fi. A disturbingly possible scenario built on the idea that humanity has found a way to mine the moon for precious minerals. But what happens when a cry for help is heard coming from an abandoned base...?

Stuart Neville's Juror 8 spins the story of Twelve Angry Men, showing not just what happens after the trial but also putting a different twist on the events inside the juryroom. Dark and imaginative, and told from the perspective of Emmet McArdle, the old man who was the first to give support to Juror 8.

Anne Zouroudi's The Honey Trap tells the story of a long-ago child disappearance and how the truth is brought to light. Zouroudi builds great atmosphere in this story and her descriptive writing brings the Greek setting to life.

I could pick any of a dozen more, from a decent Sherlock Holmes pastiche by Neil Gaiman to a blackly funny and yet quite moving story from Mark Billingham in which Santa is murdered. Peter James gives us truly spooky horror in a tale of hags, curses and haunted figurines, while Anthony Horowitz makes us laugh and shudder in a deliciously horrible and blackly humorous story of cosmic justice. We have black widows, overly competitive squash players, migrated souls, stolen paintings...

To be honest, you'd need to be pretty much impossible to please if you didn't enjoy at least some of these stories. Imaginative stories and great writing from top authors - the fact that it's for a good cause is just an added bonus. Highly recommended.

Edit: I've noticed one of the other reviews complains about the Kindle formatting. I read this on my Kindle Fire and the formatting was fine - the indexing worked perfectly and there certainly weren't a lot of typos etc. I'm not sure what problems the other reviewer encountered, but I found none.
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Mark Ellingham and Peter Florence invited 27 crime writers to submit an original short story to this collection. Ian Rankin provides the introduction, there’s an afterword by Oxfam’s CEO Mark Goldring and all royalties going in support of Oxfam. The collection is a good one without any really duff stories within it and I really enjoyed the variety of styles and stories on display.

THE DEAD THEIR EYES IMPLORE US by George Pelecanos is an emotionally satisfying tale that follows a Greek immigrant in 1930s New York who finds himself set on a path of revenge when a friend is killed.

THE CASE OF DEATH AND HONEY by Neil Gaiman is another of his riffs on Sherlock Holmes and sees him face his greatest case – against death itself. I enjoyed the tie ins here with Holmes mythology and it’s one that Holmes fans will particularly enjoy.

BUY AND BUST by Simon Lewis follows an undercover cop trying to make a bust only for everything to go wrong. This wasn’t one of my favourites because it felt like it needed a better finish, but it’s still an interesting tale.

I’VE SEEN THAT MOVIE TOO by Val McDermid is a delicious revenge tale revolving around a film script, a con woman and a lesbian affair gone wrong.

CAUGHT SHORT by Anthony Horowitz is a silly just deserts story that works better if you don’t think about the ways it wouldn’t work in reality.

THE SIN OF DREAMS by Walter Mosley is an interesting combination of SF and crime set in a future world where the soul can be downloaded and transferred to a new body. This was one of my favourites in the collection with the issues and consequences staying with me long after I finished the book.

FIVE FRANCS EACH by Fred Vargas (translated by Sian Williams) is the first English translation of a French story published in 2000 that follows a homeless witness to a crime who refuses to co-operate with the police and is a damning piece of social commentary.

AN AFTERNOON by Ian Rankin is a reprint of one of Rankin’s earliest stories about a police officer patrolling a football game. It’s a little lacking in depth but I liked the way he turns the coins thrown at the police officers from weapons to a prize.

JUROR 8 by Stuart Neville is a really nice twist on 12 ANGRY MEN and will guarantee you never look at Henry Fonda’s character in the same light again.

FACE VALUE by Stella Duffy is a neatly constructed tale of an author recounting the dark history behind his most famous work.

NOT TOMMY JOHNSON by John Harvey is a Resnick tale about the tragic and needless death of a teenage boy trying to do the right thing.

YOU’LL NEVER FORGET MY FACE by Peter James plays on the gypsy curse trope. I’ll confess that it isn’t my favourite form of story because of the inherent racism but it’s well executed.

THE CALM BEFORE by Denise Mina is a really creepy story about a released convict trying to start a new life but unable to leave his desires behind him.

THE LADDER by Adrian McKinty puts crime firmly in the world of the academic liberal classes and shows that even the humble game of squash can be motive to murder.

VENICE IS SINKING INTO THE SEA by James Sallis is a creepy story about a woman just looking for the right man to be with.

MY LIFE AS A KILLER by Maxim Jakubowski is a well-constructed story about a hitman for hire who finds it impossible to keep his work life separate from his personal life.

THE CATERPILLAR FLAG by Christophe Fowler is set against the Diamond Jubilee and follows ex pats living in Spain who find murder amongst their midst.

REFLECTIONS IN UNNA by Louise Welsh follows an Englishman in the Ruhr who finds that the opportunity of a lifetime carries a dark and frightening price.

PEOPLE JUST DON’T LISTEN by Peter Robinson is a beautifully executed short story about the danger of brief encounters in cocktail bars.

THE HONEY TRAP by Anne Zouradi contains some great depictions of the Greek islands but the story itself and in particular its denouement didn’t quite ring true for me.

THE SPINSTER by Anne Cleeves fits into her Shetland Isle series with Jimmy Perez speaking to a Shetland inhabitant and uncovering old crimes when a body is uncovered during construction of a home extension.

DIAGNOSIS: MURDER by Martyn Waites is a little clichéd, following a man whose diagnosis of terminal cancer gives him a new desire to right old wrongs and the ending was too predictable for me.

TROUBLE AT THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF FORGIVENESS by Alexander McCall Smith is a deliciously tongue in cheek tale of a private investigator who finds that no one in an Institute for Forgiveness Studies can find it within themselves to forgive each other.

THE HOUSE OF SUSAN LULHAM by Phil Rickman marries murder with a crime story but the genres never gelled for me and the idea of a church-sanctioned paranormal investigator didn’t ring true for me.

UNDERNEATH THE MISTLETOE LAST NIGHT by Mark Billingham sees the unforgiveable happen as Santa Clause is whacked besides the Chritmas tree and Tom Thorne has to find the culprit.

THE CHILDREN OF DR LYALL by John Connolly is a creepy mix of history, crime and SF set among looters and burglars intent on making money during the Blitz who get more than they bargained for when they target the house of an elderly woman. This chilled the hell out of me and also stayed with me long after I finished the book.

BLACK SKY by Yrsa Sigurdardottir is a disturbing mix of SF and crime set in the far future where a mining mission on the moon is winding down and waiting for their ride home when they start to receive messages from an abandoned base.
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on 17 June 2014
A very accomplished collection of short stories from a stellar list of favourite authors, my particular favourite was 'the house of Susan Lulham' by the simply superb author Phil Rickman, I can highly recommend his other work, in particular the Merrily Watkins series.
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on 28 July 2014
As with all books of this nature there are BRILLIANT stories, there are ok ones and some that should never see the light of day...
also you are always wanting more of the good ones and I end up getting annoyed that its finished... a good thing though that you can skip the ones you don't like....
Its for a good cause and it kept me entertained !
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on 14 April 2015
a pretty disappointing collection of short stories. maybe it is the short story form itself that I don't like. I was hoping to use this as an engine of introductions to some unfamiliar writers but I didn't find much of interest. The George Pellecanos one was okay, the rest were mainly rehashes and excerpts from other things, some of them with gimmicky premises.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 May 2014
Crime writers seem to enjoy the short story form and the genre lends itself to such short, hard hitting stories so compilations such as these are hardly thin on the ground. Nevertheless I recommend this collection, firstly because it supports an excellent cause, and secondly the stories are such good fun with nary a dud to be found. Favourites for me were the old stagers Rankin and Harvey but George Pelecanos provides us with a terse tale from across the water and Anthony Horowitz's effort is rather good as well.
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on 5 October 2014
This was a mixed bunch of crime stories some intriguing and clever,some odd and instantly forgettable. What seemed surprising to me was the unpleasant sexual element in many of the stories and the prevalent use of crude four-letter words,often unnecessarily. Didn't add anything to the story-lines.....
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on 30 May 2014
I initially brought this to read the Phil Rickman short story, which was as usual excellent. Great to see Merrily Watkins again.

However it has introduced me to some new authors, whose work I will now try.

Sadly, as is often the case the formatting on the Kindle leaves a lot to be desired.
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on 27 January 2015
A very mixed selection from the genre, some excellent stories and some real surprises. Good to read stories by authoris I was previously unfamiliar with. Not all to my taste but definitely something there for everyone.
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on 9 June 2014
This is a great collection of short crime fiction. There are many authors included whose longer works I have not yet read, many more I had not heard of before, and of course my two favourites, John Connolly and Mark Billingham contributed. A great read compiled for a great cause.
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