OxCrimes-full-coverThe list of names on the front of Oxcrimes, a new short story collection, is enough to tell you that you’re in for a treat. This is a delicious box of criminal chocolates, but don’t expect any soft centres.

27 of the best contemporary crime authors have assembled largely new work for the collection; a list that includes Mark Billingham, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, Fred Vargas. All are donating their royalties to Oxfam. The charity is to be applauded, not only for creative fundraising, but also for putting together a book that should be on everyone’s holiday reading list.

The short story format, which could be considered restrictive in crime fiction, offers new possibilities here. Scenes are set and then wrongdoing emerges sometimes as simply stated asides (reader, I killed him), chilling gradual revelations through glimpses of subjective truth, or real-time tales of suspense. In Venice is Sinking into the Sea by James Sallis, a serial killer coolly tells us about each of her failed relationships and how each one ended: a new town, a new man, a new resentment, a new death, messy or otherwise.  Val McDermid’s I’ve Seen That Movie Too explains a perfectly reasonable rationale for a perfectly reasonable murder, while passions burn beneath its surface. Buy and Bust by Simon Lewis is a tense story of an undercover police officer in a car with arms dealers, unable to see if his back-up is in pursuit. My favourite is Caught Short by Anthony Horowitz.  It’s a darkly comic, stomach-turning morality tale of how a selfish man is made to face up to the mess he’s made  – but not in a way you might expect – after a hit and run incident.

The stories cover a range of genres, from the hard-boiled tale of needs-must immigrant life of George Pelecanos, to a splendid Sherlock Holmes tribute by Neil Gaiman. Some, like Ann Cleeves’ The Spinster, feature the authors’ own familiar creations (DI Jimmy Perez): others are departures, like Peter James’ tale of a gypsy curse.

This book’s an absolute treat.  It’s a great way to revisit your favourite authors (and there are plenty herein) in fun-size format, as well as a tantalising way to find new writers to love.  And buying it raises money for charity too. Get your wallet out, you won’t be sorry.

Oxcrimes: short story collection

Oxcrimes: short story collection: buy online on Amazon