The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10 by Maxim Jakubowski
|The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10 by Maxim Jakubowski|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Hit and miss collection would be improved by cutting out quite a few stories, but has some good reads.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 608||Date: February 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
A couple of years ago, I reviewed The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 8 by Maxim Jakubowski and it was something of a frustrating experience. There were some really good short stories in there, from excellent authors, but they were padded out by a significant number of completely unmemorable ones. The latest in the series suffers from the same lack of quality control - if anything, the ratio of hits to misses is somewhat lower.
That's not to say there's not some worthwhile stuff in here - there certainly is. Lee Child steps away from Jack Reacher to give us an assured Sherlock Holmes-inspired story, The Bone Headed League, which is a clever and enjoyable read despite lasting just six pages. Paul Johnston's Big Guy, even shorter than Child's story, is a great character-driven piece, as is Claire Seeber's He Did Not Always See Her. Best of all, perhaps, is Squeaky, by Martin Edwards, which takes what I'd previously thought to be an overused trope about ventriloquists' dummies and produces a genuinely chilling and thrilling tale.
Even some of the stories which didn't work too well for me had some real potential. I wasn't keen on the plot of Lisa Tuttle's The Curious Affair of The Deodand, but loved the pair of detectives it introduced, childlike Jasper Jesperson and new assistant Miss Lane, and would definitely read more featuring this duo. The King of Oudh's Curry, by Amy Myers, was rather too predictable but still felt like a satisfying read and again, I'd look out for her work in the future.
Amongst these, though, there's just too many stories which don't have any real strong points. Bland, predictable, and boring are words that could be used to describe about half of the stories in this collection - I found myself struggling not to skip over pages in many of them; worrying when barely any last over 20 pages. I'll also reiterate another criticism from last time - the lack of any biographical details seems bizarre in this day and age. Perhaps this is because it's easy enough to throw authors' names into an internet search engine, but a brief paragraph at the start of each story with a little bit about what else they'd written - or at the very least a link to a website or Twitter account or similar - would have been very welcome.
All in all, I'm struggling to recommend it particularly highly, but at an average cost of 20p a story, it's hard to suggest that it should be completely avoided. I think the six I mentioned above, along with Phil Lovesey's Stardust and Margaret Murphy's The Message, are strong enough to make it at least a mild recommendation, but I'd really like to see a slightly less mammoth read next time around with a higher average quality of story.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10 by Maxim Jakubowski at Amazon.com.
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