Monday 30 August 2021

Fen Country - and Murder by the Book

Murder by the Book includes an Edmund Crispin story that previously appeared in his posthumous collection Fen Country, so it was perhaps appropriate that an event to celebrate the publication of the latest British Library Crime Classic anthology should be held in Ely, at the heart of the fenlands. The event was organised by Toppings, who have a lovely bookshop in the centre of the little city. I've visited Ely only once before, on a day trip nine years ago, and given the length of the journey from Cheshire, it made sense to turn the event into the centrepiece of a staycation, and to spend more time in a fascinating part of England. 

The event itself was held in St Peter's Church, and the layout of the pews allowed for social distancing. Toppings served coffee and cake, and we all tucked in with enjoyment. I was interviewed by David Learner, a former actor whose roles included Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. David did a great job and the afternoon passed very enjoyably indeed, not least because there were many books to sign! I was also delighted to have the chance of an extended chat afterwards with a good friend of this blog, Clint Stacey.

Exploring Ely was very enjoyable. A boat trip on the Great Ouse and a visit to Ely Country Park were among the highlights. Ely is a relatively isolated place, with a rich history and I can imagine that lifestyles there are often tranquil and relaxing. David is very keen on the city, and it's easy to understand why. Of course, having a good bookshop close at hand is a real plus...

We spent an afternoon wandering around nearby Wicken Fen, a place rich in wildlife, and while wandering through the reeds, I came up with a very visual idea for the opening chapter of my next novel. So - definitely inspirational! That idea doesn't involve the fens in any way, but I must admit I'm now tempted to set a short story or a scene in a novel there. On the way home, we also went around the grounds of Anglesey Abbey - which is a very long way from the Anglesey I'm familiar with - and again that was fun to do. Luck with good weather always helps on a trip like this, and I'd have had a good time even if nobody turned up for my event. The fact that people came from quite far-flung places was a real bonus, and underlined the appeal of classic crime fiction.  


Sunday 29 August 2021

Caroline Todd R.I.P.

I was deeply saddened yesterday to learn of the death of Caroline Todd, a delightful person and a gifted writer in collaboration with her son Charles. I've greatly enjoyed Caroline's company, along with that of Charles and her daughter Linda, on many occasions, both in Britain and the United States, and I was in touch very recently to pick their brains about the pros and cons of collaborative crime writing for a course that I'm working on right now.

I first became aware of the name of Charles Todd (the name under which the mother and son duo wrote) twenty-five years ago, when I delighted in their first historical mystery featuring Inspector Rutledge, A Test of Wills. The popularity of that book paved the way for a long and successful career. Their love of England shone through in their writing: it's not easy to capture the sense of a foreign country in a long series of novels, but they achieved this thanks to meticulous research and a great deal of empathy.

The first time I had a long conversation with Caroline was, as far as I can remember, in Baltimore, at the 2008 Bouchercon, when we appeared on a panel together. After that there were many enjoyable encounters. We were, for instance, on a quiz team together at Harrogate a couple of years ago (above photo), and Caroline also took part in 'Forgotten Authors' panels at CrimeFest. I also remember a memorable dinner at Malice Domestic in 2014, along with the actor-writers Melodie Johnson Howe and Kathryn Leigh Scott, while Charles and Caroline were guests of mine at a table at the Agatha awards banquet a couple of years later when The Golden Age of Murder won the prize. 

Four years ago, when I agreed to give a talk in Grasmere to a group of Americans visiting the Lake District, I was surprised and delighted to find that their number included Caroline and Charles, who were on another research trip - as I say, they researched expertly and extensively together. I've also had the pleasure of including their stories in anthologies; their contributions were always entertaining and highly professional.

All our get-togethers were happy ones, because Caroline was a woman of charm, intelligence, and kindliness. She and Charles were due to be guests of honour at the Anthony Awards last night and warm tributes were paid. In particular, Hank Philippi Ryan spoke very movingly about Caroline's personal qualities and literary gifts in a memorable and fitting tribute. I shall miss her and my sympathies go to her family and particularly to my dear friends Charles and Linda, whose loss is so great. 

Friday 27 August 2021

Forgotten Book - No Through Road

Martin Russell was a capable crime novelist who enjoyed a long career yet remained relatively low-profile. His retiring personality perhaps helps to account for this. In addition, although he wrote a short series featuring the journalist Jim Larkin, he concentrated on stand-alones which were published consistently over the years in the Collins Crime Club but seldom appeared in paperback. 

He made his debut with No Through Road in 1965 and it's an intriguing and unusual crime novel. The first part of the story is told in the first person by Arthur Whitlock, who is driving north and clearly escaping from something - but what? Later sections are told in the third person as he comes into contact with the police. It's not easy to say much more about the storyline for fear of giving spoilers.

Whitlock is a meek individual but we learn he's enjoyed considerable success (although rather fleeting) as a playwright. He has been besotted with his much younger wife Gwenda, but the marriage has proved disastrous in various ways. I detected the influence of Simenon on the writing - something not so evident in Russell's later novels, or at least those I have read. 

This is quite an ambitious novel, and I can see why Elizabeth Walter, the long-serving Crime Club editor, picked it up. Despite a good deal of unevenness, there are some interesting ideas in evidence. That said, I don't think the novel can be accounted a great success - as Kirkus Reviews said, it's a bit too strident, but it does 'manage a fair amount of pace and pressure'. The psychological aspects of the story didn't strike me as entirely convincing, and the same could be said of the police characters, but there are plenty of glimpses here of the capable writer that Russell would become. 

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Rebecca 2020 film review

Ben Wheatley's decision to remake the Hitchcock classic Rebecca was, depending on your viewpoint, courageous or foolhardy, but he's been quite clear in interviews that his focus was on filming Daphne du Maurier's novel rather than reinterpreting the Master of Suspense and I think that was sensible. His film is no masterpiece, I'm afraid, but it ranks as solid entertainment.

In some ways, the best part of the movie comes in the early scenes, as we find the heroine (Lily James, very well cast) oppressed by her dreadful employer Mrs Van Hopper (Ann Dowd, who is terrific) and entrancing wealthy and moody Maxim de Winter, who is coming to terms with the death of his wife, Rebecca. Maxim is played by the American actor Armie Hammer, and this is a casting choice that I found odd and unsatisfactory. Maxim's weird mustard-coloured suit made a more immediate impression on me than the man himself. It would be absurd and unfair to compare him to Laurence Olivier, but I feel sure there must have been stronger candidates for the tormented character of Maxim.

The main action then shifts to Cornwall, and the de Winter house, Manderley. Filming took place in Devon rather than Cornwall, apparently, and more than one house was used to create the Gothic mansion where Rebecca's ghost figuratively stalks the corridors. We're introduced to the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers (one of the great villains in fiction) who was besotted with Rebecca and hates her successor. Kristin Scott Thomas tackles the role with icy zeal, and is compelling throughout. Alas, Sam Riley is far less memorable as Jack Favell than was George Sanders in the Hitchcock version.

The script is workmanlike, but given the strength of the source material, one would have hoped for more. There's a 21st century attempt to make Maxim's new wife more active and less of a victim in the later scenes, but it doesn't work very well. I am definitely not one of those who thinks that Rebecca shouldn't have been filmed again and I did find this version enjoyable viewing. But it's simply not as good as it might have been.



Monday 23 August 2021

Many Deadly Returns - the launch trip

After a very, very long wait, I've finally enjoyed an in-person book launch once again. This was a highlight of a trip to the North East last week, and involved meeting up with my colleagues in Murder Squad to celebrate the publication of our fourth anthology. Many Deadly Returns celebrates our 21st year as a writers' collective. Margaret Murphy, our founder, Ann Cleeves, Cath Staincliffe, and I have been there since the beginning. John Baker and Chaz Brenchley have retired, while Stuart Pawson sadly died, but we've been joined by Chris Simms and Kate Ellis.

Many Deadly Returns includes three stories from each of the six current members, plus one from each of the former members. I've edited the book and my three stories are: 'The Other Ones', 'Lucky Liam', and 'Bad Friday'. Of this trio, 'The Other Ones' is brand new, while 'Bad Friday' has only previously appeared in the United States. The book is published by Severn House here and in the US, and there's been a very positive early review from Kirkus, which has put us in very good heart. 

Our editor, Kate Lyall Grant from Severn House (who many moons ago published two of my Harry Devlin novels when she and I were with Hodder) was, happily, able to join us for dinner, followed by the launch, which was hosted by Forum Books in Whitley Bay. There was fizz to drink and a wonderful Murder Squad cake, all contributing to a very convivial evening in which our book flew off the shelves. How good it was to be able to take part in a live event again. Zoom is invaluable in many ways, but Zoom get-togethers, although definitely far better than nothing, are not quite the same.

I also got back into my habit of turning the visit into a sightseeing trip. Northumberland is a county I like a lot, and there are plenty of places I'd love to explore. I made a start by visiting Seaton Delaval Hall, a burnt-out husk designed on the grand scale by Vanbrugh, and with lovely grounds, and even better, taking a boat trip from Seahouses to the Farne Islands, which was really memorable: see the pictures below. Other stops included Alnwick (with its fantastic Barter Books) and Alnmouth and, on the way up to the north east, Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen. As a  whole, the trip felt like re-entering the real world after a long, dreamy slumber.   

Friday 20 August 2021

Forgotten Book - The Plot against Roger Rider

After finding A Sort of Virtue, Julian Symons' final novel, rather a let-down, I went back to one of my favourites among his eclectic works. This is actually the third time I've read The Plot against Roger Rider. First time around was not long after the original publication in 1973, and the plot twist blew me away. The second time was twelve years ago and resulted in one of my early Forgotten Book blog posts. Rather than rehash what I said before, let me take a fresh look at the book's strengths and weaknesses.

The latter were hinted at in Edmund Crispin's review in the Sunday Times, which found 'too many abrupt changes of viewpoint, and a certain amount of peripheral material which seems perfunctory'. Because the story is told from numerous different perspectives (with bits of omniscience added to the mix as a means o building suspense), it isn't easy to find someone to identify with, though young James Paradine eventually emerges as an effective amateur detective. One character's preoccupation with the Russian Royal Family doesn't add anything to the story, an example of that perfunctory peripheral material Crispin mentioned. There's also a brief passage where Symons slips into the present tense for no apparent reason. Today, I think, the main weakness is the treatment of sex and sexual orientation. In this respect, the story seems dated and unsatisfactory. 

In Symons' defence, some of this arises from his use of sexual attraction between characters as a means of misdirecting the reader from what is really going on. And as Crispin says, the novel offers 'considerable rewards - audaciously intricate contrivance, lucid, sinewy prose, characters who spring to life with the first sentence they utter, variegated backgrounds (London, Spain, Sardinia) and a stimulating shock ending whose only fault is that it is possibly a little too frailly prepared.' Is this last remark fair comment? Arguably, but on the whole, I'd say the preparation is sufficient, even though the hints about the truth are rather oblique. The characterisation, as often with Symons, is crisp and generally effective, while the presentation of Spain under Franco is rather interesting.

When reading the book this time, I've focused on the craft of the writer, trying to figure out how Symons set about putting together the disparate ingredients of this complicated mystery.I don't want to give spoilers, because it's a novel well worth reading and the final twist is definitely gasp-inducing and memorable, but my guess is that two of the real life crimes referenced in the text provided important raw material, and that the key concept was that of a 'biter bit' conspiracy. If that's right, he will have had his solution in mind at the outset, and then had to make decisions as to how to build up interest in the relationships between the central characters. I sense that he may have struggled with this - he wasn't entirely happy with the book - and this explains the faults that Crispin identified. But having read the novel three times, I remain a fan.    

Wednesday 18 August 2021

Writing Short Stories: Part 2 - guest post by Art Taylor


Today, Art Taylor resumes his discussion of the craft of writing short stories (and mentions one of my own favourite authors of short stories, the brilliant William Trevor) :

'In Part I of this essay, I suggested some of the benefits of writing long first drafts of short stories to improve the quality of the final, shorter ones. But should writers do this?

As I tell students in my workshops at George Mason University, the strongest characters don’t exist solely in a scene or a moment, stepping off into nothingness; instead, the reader should feel that their lives extend well before the first line of the story, well after the final one (if they’re lucky!), and beyond the borders of any single page.

There are several technical ways to accomplish these gestures toward the larger world. A stray detail in a line of dialogue, a brief ramble through memories in a passage of interiority, even a bit of backstory directly presented in a line of exposition (that last in moderation)—these moves allow you to take elements which might have been part of a longer manuscript and sneak them around the edges of a streamlined revision. In his terrific craft book Thrill Me, Benjamin Percy suggests slipping a small reference to backstory into the predicate of a sentence—an exercise I now assign in class.  

Admittedly, writing a full novel to earn the raw material for a short story isn’t efficient. Writers could also sketch out notes about a character’s history, their dreams, their fears, etc. to pluck from as needed for the story itself. Another tactic: Sketch a chronological list of every event that has some impact on the story, then start the storytelling itself near the end of that chronology, trying to infuse the plot with the weight of the larger history.

One of my own favorite short story writers, William Trevor, used the word “distillation” to describe the short story—a word that’s stuck, in terms of both purification and extraction. Taking something that’s fuller and condensing it and reducing it until what you’ve got is exactly what you need, no more, no less, and in its richest form.

High potency, small doses. That’s something to aim for, however you might get there.'

Art Taylor is the author of The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense (Crippen & Landru, 2020). His fiction has won the Edgar Award and the Anthony Award, as well as multiple Agatha, Derringer, and Macavity Awards. He’s a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Find out more about his work at



Monday 16 August 2021

Writing Short Stories - part 1: guest post by Art Taylor

Over the past few years, I've valued the friendship of the American writer Art Taylor, who is not only a novelist but also a highly distinguished, multi-award-winning author of short stories. My guess is that the time is coming, if it hasn't already arrived, when Art will be hailed as the finest American author of crime short stories since the great Stanley Ellin. Like me, Art is fascinated by the craft of crime writing and I was thrilled when he offered to contribute a typically thoughtful piece about writing short stories. Here's the first of two instalments: 

'My essay “The Short Mystery” for How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook From Mystery Writers of America focusses on three principles as guidance for writing short mystery fiction: economy, efficiency, and focus. So my suggestion here might seem contradictory: To write successful short fiction, write long.   

More by accident than by design, the first drafts of my own short stories are frequently significantly longer than the final versions. The earliest draft of my story “The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74” was only 3,500 words (back in 1994!), but it ultimately ballooned into a major strand of an abandoned novel, then into a standalone novella, and finally into a smaller tighter novella of 11,000 words—the version ultimately published last year in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Another story—“Mrs. Marple and the Hit-and-Run”—began as a 10,000-word story, but when I read the original draft aloud to a beta audience, I felt its bloat and sluggishness. The final, published version clocked in at a sleek 2,500 words.

A key point, however: In reducing a strand of a novel to a shorter novella and in cutting 75% of that second story, I didn’t ultimately delete any of the major components of the earlier drafts. Those elements remain—hinted at, gestured toward, folded in at the corners—and I think (hope!) each published story is stronger precisely because of the words that were discarded.

Writing long helps to “flesh out” (that worn-out phrase) some of the skeletal aspects of a draft, enhancing an understanding of the characters, of their wider world and their place in that world, and of the longer chain of events both before and after the main action of the story. More, more, more in all directions—hopefully toward the richness and complexity of the readers’ experience too.

However—and it’s a big however—the short story doesn’t ultimately succeed on the concept of more more more but on those principles of economy, efficiency, and focus

So how does more become less? And how can that less do more? Thanks to my host Martin Edwards, there’s a Part II of this post ahead, addressing just those questions.'

Friday 13 August 2021

Forgotten Book - A Sort of Virtue

Julian Symons' final novel is the least-discussed of all his books, in part no doubt because it was published after his death. A Sort of Virtue is an oddity in a number of ways, not least because it marks the second appearance of the Scotland Yard man Hilary Catchpole. So Symons, the scourge of series characters, ended his career with a mini-series, albeit of just two books (Hilary previously appeared in Playing Happy Families).  

Another curiosity is that this novel is presented as 'a political thriller', a type of writing with which Symons wasn't closely associated. He wrote the book during the years of the John Major government, and Major is given a name-check in the text, but has retired from the fray before the events of the story take place. There's quite a lot in the story about the inner workings of government, but this material is presented in a rather detached way and I have to say that I didn't get any impression of inside knowledge about the workings of government. 

The story begins with the discovery of a murder. The dead woman is Lily Devon, a high-class prostitute. An initial police investigation is manipulated by outside forces, and duly bungled. An attempt to pin the killing on an innocent man fails, but only because Hilary - of all people - can give him an alibi. It then falls to Hilary to find out what really happened.

Julian Symons wrote this book at a time when he was suffering from cancer. The novel is longer than most of his books and I wonder if, had he lived, he would have edited it more extensively. I like to think so, because the story is meandering, to say the least. Characters flit in and out of the story and for long periods, not much happens. Quite a lot of the dialogue and description. particularly in relation to minor characters, seems dated by the standards of the 1990s, never mind today. 

Because he was a very good writer, there is still some interest in many of the scenes, but the magic that I associate with Symons at his best is absent. There is one minor character, a rather typical Symons figure, who seems enigmatic and who I felt was sure to play a key part; but in the end the explanation for his mysterious activities was anti-climactic in the extreme. The basic murder mystery plot is okay, but overwhelmed by endless digressions that aren't especially interesting. I really, really wanted to love this book, but I can't deny that I found it a disappointment. I'm afraid it's one for the Symons completist only.  

Wednesday 11 August 2021

A return visit to The Crooked Shore

A full day trip to the Lake District - at long last! I was glad to take advantage of a fairly positive weather forecast to take another look at one of my favourite areas in the world, and some of the settings for The Crooked Shore. I have a vivid memory of the day I discovered the tiny village of Aldingham on the south coast of Cumbria and realised that it would make a perfect setting for the story I had in mind. I made a few changes, transplating a manor-converted-into-flats from north Wales to Cumbria, and introducing a few topographical changes, but Aldingham was certainly inspirational and it was good to go back.

I also took a quick look at Bowness, home to Kingsley Melton, who plays such a key part in the story, and also the place where Ramona Smith was last seen more than twenty years before the action of the story begins. After that, we drove through Ambleside to Grasmere for lunch at the Swan, where a few years ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk to a group of American visitors which included my dear friends Caroline and Charles Todd, who were researching for one of their own novels.

A walk into Grasmere village naturally took me to Sam Read's brilliant bookshop. There was a long queue outside, so I didn't go in, as independent shops need all the customers they can get without being interrupted, but it was heart-warming to see so many people so eager to look for books. And very gratifying to see The Crooked Shore in the window!

After that, a lovely trip over the dramatic Kirkstone Path to Ullswater, where the events of The Frozen Shroud take place, and Pooley Bridge - and my first sight of the new bridge, built after floods destroyed the old one. I was startled to realise that it's more than six years since I was last there on a research trip, but again it was good to see how busy everywhere was and I hope this means that the economic impact of the pandemic is being mitigated to some extent. It will be a while before I write another Lake District book, since I have a contract to produce two more Rachel Savernakes, but this trip was a reminder of what  a gorgeous and inspirational part of the world it is. Great to be back, and a great way to celebrate the new book, which incidentally has been Cumbria Life's book of the month. 

Monday 9 August 2021

Murder by the Book - publication week!

It seems like only yesterday that The Crooked Shore was published. I'll be talking more about my new novel shortly, but this month, I'm in the unusual and fortunate position of having two anthologies to celebrate. Later in August, the Murder Squad collection Many Deadly Returns will be published by Seven House, and I'll be launching the book along with my Murder Squad colleagues at Forum Books in Ann Cleeves' home town of Whitley Bay. 

But this week sees the appearance of another British Library Crime Classics anthology. Murder by the Book is sub-titled 'Mysteries for Bibliophiles' and I gather that advance sales have been extremely good (which is always nice to hear). So much so that there is already a possibility that I might be putting together a second book on a related theme, though nothing is yet settled. 

Again, I'm scheduled to do a bookshop event - this time at Toppings in Ely, later in the month. So if you're in that area, do check out the Toppings website for details. It's so good to be getting back into bookshops - I've missed them very much during the lockdowns. And I'm enjoying the chance to get around the country as well, which is genuine compensation for those cancelled overseas trips (for instance, I decided some time ago, with great regret, not to travel to New Orleans for Bouchercon, and now sadly the whole live event has been cancelled). 

As you can gather from this spate of publications, I have at least been able to keep busy with writing projects during the past eighteen months and in many ways the time has flown by. During that time I've also signed a contract to write two more Rachel Savernake books. One of them, Blackstone Fell, is already written. And before long it will be time to start on the fourth in the series. Meanwhile, there is a further project that has kept me occupied, and that will be announced shortly...

Friday 6 August 2021

Forgotten Book - A Little Less than Kind

Charlotte Armstrong's A Little Less than Kind can be read on its own merits as an unusual novel of domestic suspense, concerning the suspicions of a young man, Ladd Cunningham, that his father was murdered by an old friend called David Crown, who has now married Ladd's mother and taken control of the family business. Alternatively, one can pick up the clue in the title and read the story as a Sixties riff on Hamlet with a fair dollop of Freudian psychology thrown in.

On the whole, I prefer the former approach. The set-up is full of potential. Hob Cunningham was dying of cancer, but Ladd's prejudice against David leads him to suspect that David hastened Hob's death. His interpretation of events seems, to him, to be justified by a coded message Hob has left behind. Ladd determines to kill David, and his attempts to cause mayhem become increasingly deranged.

The story offers lead characters who are equivalent to those in Hamlet, but Armstrong is not attempting to rewrite the play, but rather to do something different inspired by the ideas in the play. She's interested in the relations between parents and children, a key theme of the novel, and in the question of taking responsibility. David's new wife Abby, who believes in courtesy and avoiding any hint of an argument, is portrayed as charming but selfish and weak.

There is some good writing in this novel, particularly in the early chapters, and some building of suspense. But then the story begins to drag, and the finale, though not short of action, is rather anti-climactic. It's almost as if Armstrong's interest in Shakespeare and psychology derailed the story I wonder if she began with an idea which she didn't think through fully? It's an intelligent book with pleasing aspects but not a complete success.


Wednesday 4 August 2021

Abi Silver - The Power of Fairy Tales - guest blog

When I was Chair of the CWA, I enjoyed meeting members up and down the country, and among them was Abi Silver (pictured), whom I met at a very pleasant regional chapter lunch. She is a fellow lawyer as well as a crime writer, and I'm pleased to hear she has a new book out. Here's a guest blog post from her, on a topic of timeless interest: 

'Britney Spears was in the news recently, not promoting her music, but making an emotional speech to a US court, in an attempt to extricate herself from what she termed an ‘abusive’ and ‘controlling’ conservatorship arrangement. This sparked a flurry of interest in all things Britney, including (perhaps surprisingly) her professed admiration for Albert Einstein; she had been quoting the late Nobel-prize winning physicist’s views about the importance of fairy tales to stimulate critical thinking.

But fairy tales come in different shapes and sizes. The ones adapted by Disney tend to involve a struggle between obvious personifications of good and evil, where the hero is required to use quick wits, ingenuity and perseverance to succeed (most likely the kind of stories Einstein was referencing). Others are darker (think The Tinder Box and other Hans Christian Anderson tales) and it’s less easy to find any clear moral message. By way of example, I have just written ‘they want the fairy tale!’ into the first draft of my latest offering, to illustrate a menacing demand by some nameless sponsors to achieve everything their hearts desired.

And whilst many writers argue in favour of reading these pithy, mythical stories to their nation’s children, there is certainly a fair weight of opinion in the opposite direction, with others also expounding the view that The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins was not the first crime novel; that honour should instead be bestowed on a whole series of much older tales. Crime fiction is, after all, most often about retribution and the restoration of justice. The same could certainly be said of Cinderella (a tale of child cruelty), Hansel and Gretel (attempted murder of children) or Jack and the Beanstalk (an elaborate fraud which excused theft of the most precious items).

But what cannot be challenged is the ubiquitous nature of fairy tales with their universal themes, which has influenced countless contemporary stories, including, I’m not ashamed to admit, my own.'



Abi Silver is the author of the Burton & Lamb legal thriller series. Her latest story, The Midas Game, is published on 5 August 2021 and available here  The Midas Game by Abi Silver | Eye Books ( or here

You can also find her at  Abi Silver (@abisilver16) / Twitter and (2) Abi Silver, Author | Facebook


Monday 2 August 2021

The Locked Cabin and Best Mystery Stories of the Year - edited by Lee Child


I was chuffed, to say the least, when my story 'The Locked Cabin' was chosen to be included in The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021. And it's good to learn that the book has been given a starred review in Kirkus. This is what they have to say:

'Editor Child, series editor Otto Penzler, and their colleague Michele Slung team up to offer 20 gems from 2021 in the first volume of a new series.

Many of this year’s best follow a familiar road: pitting a rugged male hero, often with military street cred, against the bad guys. Doug Allyn’s “30 and Out” features an Afghan War vet who hunts a colleague’s killer; Jim Allyn’s ex-Army police veteran worries about being teamed with an unreliable partner in “Things That Follow.” But a surprising number include less traditional crime busters. A young man entranced with the Irish language is the gentle hero of Andrew Welsh-Huggins’ “The Path I Took.” Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, a familiar female gumshoe, makes a welcome appearance in “Love & Other Crimes” along with the female proprietor of Wilde Investigations in Janice Law’s “The Client.” Moms get into the act in Alison Gaylin’s “The Gift” and Tom Mead’s “Heatwave.” So do new friends, in Martin Edwards’ “The Locked Cabin,” and frenemies, in Jacqueline Freimor’s “That Which Is True.” And in a startling tribute to the power of sisterhood, Joseph S. Walker shows how quickly female strangers can bond if the need is urgent in “Etta at the End of the World.” Women take starring roles on the wrong side of the law in John Floyd’s “Biloxi Bound” and Joyce Carol Oates’ “Parole Hearing, California Institution for Women, Chino, CA." Child’s selections seem especially appropriate for 2021, a year that promises change on so many fronts. The only exception is the unexplained bonus reprint, Ambrose Bierce’s “My Favorite Murder,” a bitter tale of a man who revels in the sadistic murder of his uncle. That one belongs to 2020.

Diverse and diverting.'