MANY DEADLY RETURNS Edited by Martin Edwards (Severn House)
Fans of British crime fiction will greatly enjoy this new collection of short stories from the Murder Squad.
The Murder Squad was formed in 1999 by a group of British crime writers who were, at that time, struggling to gain traction with paying readers, despite enjoying very good reviews for their books. The original members of the group were Cath Staincliffe, Ann Cleeves, John Baker, Martin Edwards, Chaz Brenchley, Stuart Pawson and Margaret Murphy. By joining forces they hoped to increase their publicity budget and draw more attention to their books. Ann Cleeves and Cath Staincliffe were to enjoy relatively quick success though their television series, while Martin Edwards has gained acclaim through his Detection Club books. Success has been mixed for other members of the Squad, although all are well respected.
Twenty one years on and the Murder Squad is still going strong, although there have been some changes. John Baker and Chaz Brenchley have left the Squad, while the highly entertaining Stuart Pawson passed away a few years ago. Their places have taken by Kate Ellis and the very talented Chris Simms.
To celebrate their twenty-first anniversary the Squad have issued a superb collection of short stories, Many Deadly Returns, that highlights the diversity of the group’s approach to writing crime fiction and provides some enjoyable entertainment. Each of the current members have contributed three stories, some new and some reworked old ones, while past members have provided one each.
Many Deadly Returns gets off to a great start with a terrific opening entry by Ann Cleeves, Wild Swimming, which dazzles with its twisty, surprising plot and moves with is poignant reflections on COVID pandemic. Ann’s other entries are also stand-outs, especially the tongue-in-cheek and occasionally bitchy swipe at crime writers and mystery conventions, The Queen Of Mystery.
Other highlights are Martin Edwards’ dark and witty duo of Lucky Liam and The Other Life; Margaret Murphy’s sharp and clever Read The Label and Kate Ellis’ cleverly constructed My Oleander. Chris Simms’ brings some grit and grimness to the collection and it is a pleasure to be reminded of the late Stuart Pawson’s talent with Ultra Violent.
In fact all the stories are very good and will appeal to a wide range of crime readers.
I highly recommend Many Deadly Returns and rate it four and a half stars out of five!
Many Deadly Returns was released in hardback by Severn House on 26 August 2021 in the United Kingdom and will be available on Kindle from 1 October 2021. It will be available on Kindle in Australia on 1 November 2021.
Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of the book to review.