Best British Mysteries 2006 – Ed by Maxim
‘…there is something here to everyone’s
Here is a collection of the best short stories of 2006. We
have a definite mixture of writers within the covers of this
book. The themes of the stories include the comical dark goings
on in a bingo hall, a new adventure of Sherlock Holmes through
the eyes of Mrs. Hudson and a dark tale about killing for
a piece of music and the repercussions it can have. Truly
a very mixed bag!
This collection is like a box of chocolates. Some, like toffee
or nougat, take a bit longer to digest whereas others that
are shorter are soft centred and easily melt on the tongue.
Of the longer tales, I loved Four Calling Birds by Val McDermid,
which is such a cynical, twisted tale that you cannot stop
inwardly sniggering. Also, there is a fabulous tale by Christopher
Fowler who delivers a superb ‘new’ Holmes.
Of the shorter tales my absolute favourite has to be by Peter
Lovesey. He is such a master at delivering a story in the
most precise prose with a stunning ending, and with his tongue
firmly in his cheek! The Margaret Murphy tale is also a very
harrowing tale of our time. This would make a great Christmas
gift as you can simply dive in and out of this collection
as and when time allows. Certainly, like that box of chocolates,
there is something here to everyone’s taste!
Reviewed by: C. S.
Anne Perry – A Christmas Guest
‘This is a short moral tale that will keep you
happily engrossed and quiet for a few hours over the hectic
When Mariah Ellison is unceremoniously shipped off to what
she claims to be the back of beyond, she just knows she is
going to have a dreadful Christmas. Not only has she been
abandoned by her granddaughter in preference for the better
climes of France, but she is also being forced onto her daughter-in-law
and her new husband, an actor who is twenty years younger.
Mariah just knows it will be damp and she will suffer, as
she seems to every day of her life. She also makes sure that
everyone else knows about it. Once at her holiday abode, Mariah
has another shock. As if she didn’t have enough to deal
with, the household is to have yet another guest. Mariah takes
an instant dislike to the woman, Maude and her incessant tales
of her escapades abroad. It takes a tragic incident for Mariah
to visit Maude’s family home, and for Mariah to uncover
some nasty undercurrents that have terrible repercussions
forty years later.
This is Anne Perry’s third Christmas novella. These
stories try to bring to her main protagonists a sense of understanding
for their fellow man but also have a mystery lying at the
heart of the story. Mariah is a woman who exasperates people
with her grouchy attitude and she loves to make people’s
lives a misery. As the story develops, you begin to understand
that it is the misfortunes of her own life that have made
her the woman she is.
The mystery is quite ‘light’ but that’s
not really the main focus. The pivotal point of the story
is to show Mariah’s understanding of another human being
and her realisation that there is always someone worse off
than you. It is a very humane story and I greatly enjoyed
it. This is a short moral tale that will keep you happily
engrossed and quiet for a few hours over the hectic Christmas
Anne Perry’s previous festive novel, A Christmas Visitor
is now out in paperback.
Reviewed By C.S.
Jonathan Kellerman – Rage
‘A must for all Jonathan Kellerman fans!’
Alex Delaware, psychologist and consultant to the Los Angeles
Police Department, receives a call relating to a disturbing
old case. Nine years ago two young boys killed Kristal Malley,
a toddler out shopping with her mother. Now Rand Duchay, one
of the young killers, has been released from prison and contacts
Alex Delaware to set the record straight. However, Rand is
killed later that evening and, as Alex starts looking further
into this disturbing and complex murder, it becomes clear
that the case is far from closed…
Alex Delaware and his LAPD friend and colleague, Milo Sturgis,
make a welcome return in this excellent novel. The case is
satisfyingly complex and unlike many of Kellerman’s
previous books the murderer is not revealed at the end of
the novel but is uncovered gradually. We follow Alex and Milo
as they try to unravel a case where the main characters are
now dead or missing and where the guilty seem to have already
Jonathan Kellerman is not just concerned with the central
plot but also with developing the character of Alex Delaware
and his circle of friends, The book had a wistful quality
in parts and at the end you are left with the tantalising
prospect of further change in Alex’s life. A must for
all Jonathan Kellerman fans!
Reviewed by: S.W.
Henning Mankell – The Man Who Smiled
“Lovers of Henning Mankell and his irascible detective,
Wallender, will love this book.”
Mankell’s famous Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander,
is in Denmark recovering from a breakdown brought about by
his killing of a suspect in a previous investigation. He is
visited by Sten Torstensson, a solicitor from his hometown
of Ystad, who is convinced that his father’s recent
suicide was, in fact, murder.
Still in a fragile mental state, Wallander is unable to help,
until five days later Torstensson is shot dead in his office.
This brutal event spurs Wallander into action and he returns
to the Ystad police force to dig deeper into the mysterious
world of a local multi?millionaire.
This is a classic Henning Mankell mystery first published
in Sweden in 1994. Many of the characters that feature in
his later novels are here, from new recruit Ann-Marie Holgrund
to the insomniac Svedburg. Even Kurt Wallander appears as
a younger figure, mentally exhausted and considering retirement,
but fired up with enthusiasm over taking charge of an investigation
The book reflects the preoccupations of early 1990s Sweden.
Mankell makes reference to the real-life murder of Swedish
Prime Minister, Olaf Palme, whose murderer was allowed to
flee justice due to police ineptitude early in the investigation.
The reverberations of this incompetence overshadow Mankell’s
book, as Kurt Wallander is forced to justify to his superiors
his handling of every aspect of the case.
Wallander is reassuringly the same detective of later novels,
downbeat, impatient but a dogged seeker of the truth. Lovers
of Henning Mankell and his irascible detective, Wallender,
will love this book.
Reviewed by: S.W.
The Detection Collection – Edited by Simon
‘…will guarantee to render the recipient
of this book quiet for a few hours..’
To celebrate the supposed 75th anniversary of The Detection
Club, (evidently there is some ambiguity as to when it was
actually formed), Simon Brett has rallied round and got eleven
well established crime writers to write a short story for
this collection. These stories take us through revenge for
being bullied at school, to obsession whether it is with a
person or an object. From a confidence trickster to a bizarre
incident at an American hotel where six candidates vie for
a high profiled job in a large corporation.
It is always great to read something brand new from a favourite
author. In this collection we have eleven stories, which have
never appeared in any other publication. You can’t really
go very wrong when you have such grand masters of the art
of crime writing in the form of P.D. James and Reginald Hill,
both of whom give us such excellent stories in just a little
over ten pages. I loved the Robert Goddard and seeing a new
Colin Dexter albeit without Morse, is always a celebration.
As always, the great man doesn’t disappoint. The Clare
Francis is also a delight when it looks so dark for her main
protagonist and yet ends on such a satisfying note. As with
all collections, there are a few weak ones, which is a shame
from such a high calibre of writers. Nevertheless, this is
a small yet significant collection and will guarantee to render
the recipient of this book quiet for a few hours while the
turkey is cooking on Christmas Day!
Reviewed by C.S.
Michael Jecks - The Butcher of St Peter’s
“This is a tightly woven story made up of intricate
subplots. The details of medieval life are well researched
and really interesting.”
Set in fourteenth century Exeter, this story begins with the
murder of Daniel Austyn, an official of the city who has been
investigating the corruption of a prominent member of the
city’s Freedom. This individual, Jordan le Bolle, has
power and influence throughout the city but has also made
many enemies in his pursuit of wealth through prostitution
Sir Baldwin De Furnshill is Keeper of the King’s Peace
and is in Exeter recuperating from a serious wound. His hatred
of injustice leads him on to investigate this and subsequent
murders. The story is set against a background of unease because
of a possible civil war, feud between sections of the Church
based on a desire for power and money and relationships between
husband and wife, which are less than idyllic. Baldwin does
finally unravel the complicated sub plots to discover the
This is a tightly woven story made up of intricate subplots.
The details of medieval life are well researched and really
interesting. Although this book is one of a series in which
Sir Baldwin De Furnshill is the key to solving the murders,
I felt that he played a fairly low-key part in this story.
However the other characters are well developed and their
treachery and plotting makes this book a very compelling read.
Reviewed by S.D.
Lev Grossman – Codex
“The action was well paced throughout and towards
the end of the novel it was a genuine ‘page-turner’
to see who ultimately ended up with the Codex.”
A New York private banker is asked to catalogue a collection
of private books for a client. A task that he finds both mystifying
and demeaning. However, he is soon drawn into the search for
a missing mediaeval book. An investigation, that seems to
have strange parallels with a computer game he has been given
by friends in the cyber community.
Although I approached this book in some trepidation it turned
out to be a really good read. My concern was that it seemed
very much in the vein of Umberto Eco’s “The Name
of the Rose” or Perez-Reverte’s “The Dumas
Club” and that it would not stand up well in comparison
to these excellent books. But Lev Grossman has introduced
the cyber element to his novel and I found his accounts of
entering the world of the computer game MOMUS as interesting
as the search for the ancient codex.
The action was well paced throughout and towards the end
of the novel it was a genuine ‘page-turner’ to
see who ultimately ended up with the Codex.
Reviewed by: S.W.