Killer Year by Lee Child (Editor)

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Killer Year by Lee Child (Editor)

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Eileen Shaw
Reviewed by Eileen Shaw
Summary: Showcase stories from young American writers. Well worth sampling with more hits than misses.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: June 2009
Publisher: MIRA
ISBN: 978-0778303022

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This collection of seventeen short stories in the crime genre is by a group of new, young American writers who have all been mentored by more established writers such as Lee Child, Joe R Lansdale and Ken Bruen. Although it is a little uneven in quality it does represent an effort to promote the work of younger writers in a world where it can be hard to make a break-through into mainstream publishing. The short story is a specialised medium and the crime genre short story has two prejudices to fight - if you don't read short stories you are even less likely to read short stories of a particular genre. But whereas mainstream fiction might have its diehard factions, I feel the crime aficionado may well be less uptight and crime novel lovers might read this collection in the hope of finding the next Harlan Coben or Laura Lippman.

The best story in this collection is the superbly chilling Runaway by Derek Nikitas. Two fifteen year-olds have made a building site their playground and a concrete underground bunker their den - and then they discover that a runaway black girl is hiding inside. The captivating Rhonda Peach is a revelation to the boys. But things increasingly get beyond their control.

Nikitas's writing is evocative and sensual and rooted in teenage angst. Jeremy is a fat boy who worries when his friend, the confident Auden, wants to carry on hiding Rhonda:

He'd felt lost and weak like this before - like just a week ago at the Hammersport Village Library Auden had shown him a secret website loaded with authentic forensics files: motorcycle accidents and aborted foetuses, a wedding portrait set alongside the bride's autopsy shots dated three days later, a hunter who'd been hit by a train and whose clean-sheared face had bunched up above his skull like a red toque, vivid in the downy snow. He kept looking as if those downloads could uncover some kind of truth. Instead they left him raw and hollow and wondering how Auden siphoned up life from that ugliness, like it was his main source of fuel.

Sean Chercover's story about an insurance investigator who uncovers a nasty scam to withhold a payout to a woman crippled in a car accident is well-written and satisfying and there is good work from J T Ellison, Patry Francis, and especially Marc Lecard, whose story Teardown has a terrific ending for a lowly building labourer who has missed his ride back to the city so decides to sleep on the job for one night.

There are some lack-lustre efforts as well as the hits above, particularly one story that uses the issue of paedophilia to give a lecture on evil legislature but forgets the human content to concentrate on didacticism and sickly melodrama. Nevertheless, this anthology is set to make a big impact on this year's Christmas market and bodes well for the creative juices of young America.

For a dark, frightening dip into the mind of a short story writer who knows exactly how to chill the blood, try The Museum of Doctor Moses by the brilliantly talented Joyce Carol Oates.

Thanks are due to the publisher for sending this book for review.

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