Ten Year Stretch: Celebrating a Decade of Crime Fiction at CrimeFest edited by Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller

Review published on May 9, 2018.

Have you ever watched one of those celebrity programmes and wondered if the designation “Z-list” is adequate to describe how nondescript the people involved were? No such worries here because the twenty contributors included in this anthology are the crème de la crème of crime writers. If crime is your bag, these are A-list celebrities and damn good writers one and all. They haven’t just donated stories to this anthology, each of these tales are fresh material, with the exception of Long Time No See by Maj Sjöwall, but this is the first translation of her story into English, and the inclusion of a legend of the art form is to be applauded.

Ten Year Stretch was perfect for a hot bank holiday weekend read. It includes some of my favourite authors and I got an introduction to a few I should know but haven’t tackled before. Like all short story collections some of these stories will strike you and others may not. But these are fine stories so how much you like them will simply be a matter for taste not quality. From vignettes, which give you a glimpse of a world you are not familiar with, to sharp sketches of criminals and policemen, to fully rounded stories encapsulated in just a few short pages this is a good anthology. Let’s face it, a collection of new material by so many legends of crime writing and others rated as the future of the thriller won’t come around very often.

Peter James kicks it all off with a witty little foreword. At the launch party for his first novel, the publisher was more concerned about the number of words than the quality of the writing he produced. The message seems to have been make the second one longer. James had barely exceeded the 50,000 minimum (now, apparently, 80,000 words are expected). The collection is edited by Adrian Muller and Martin Edwards, who also contributes a story. As series consultant to the British Library Crime Classics series and chair of the CWA he really knows what he is doing. There is a real variety of stories: locked room, detective, criminal’s perspective and the range of locations, Tanzania, America, Britain and France. Also, an array of styles. Here is a flavour of a few of my favourites:

Lee Child’s Shorty and the Briefcase is about an officer who gets injured in a blue on blue incident and everyone else would rather forget about the shooting and him. Shorty is following the team’s progress when they get assigned a new case in his absence. Something occurs to him, while convalescing, that the team has missed and he has a plan. Anne Cleeves plays with the locked room conundrum in Moses and the Locked Tent Mystery, set in the Serengeti national park in Tanzania. A guide accused of the murder of a female guest figures it out for himself. Jeffrey Deaver is firmly in serial killer territory with Blind Date. Tim and Joannie are on a blind date, it’s all pretty normal to start with, they are getting to know each other:

“They navigated a few political differences but neither of them was rabidly red or blue.”

However, when the news breaks the story that ‘The Roman Numerals Killer’ has struck again, Joannie is terrified, but of what exactly? Kate Ellis has author Barney Tollemache getting himself into hot water on a book signing trip to France in Crime Scene. In Ask Tom St. Clare, Sophie Hannah sees a girl looking for her missing boyfriend, someone here is a pathological liar, who? Mick Herron injects a belly laugh or two with his admission of being a spy for Wales, but not Wales, if you see what I mean – no? Read How Many Cats Have You Killed? and it will all becomes clear.

The collection also contains some of my favourite writers, including Ian Rankin, who has fun with a tale of Rebus reminiscing over a beer, what else? All leading to a discovery, with echoes of ageing, retirement and funerals. Bill Beverley, Andrew Taylor, James Sallis and Maj Sjöwall are also represented. Other contributors are Caro Ramsey, Simon Brett, Peter Guttridge, John Harvey, Donna Moore, Michael Stanley and Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

All royalties from this short story collection go to the Royal National Institute for the Blind, but to be clear, this is a book that is good, not because of that good intention, but because it’s comprised of a lot of decent crime shorts.

CrimeFest celebrates its tenth anniversary this year in Bristol (May 17th to 20th) and this anthology has been put together to recognise that achievement. Congratulations from Nudge-Book on that achievement and good luck for another highly successful year. CrimeFest has gathered a reputation since it’s inception and is now rated very highly around the world. Finally, congratulations to the contributors, CrimeFest, No Exit Press and all the people involved in this worthwhile project. Get Ten Year Stretch for yourself or a friend – a great beach read.

Paul Burke 4/4

Ten Year Stretch: Celebrating a Decade of Crime Fiction at CrimeFest edited by Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller
No Exit Press 9780857301321 pbk Apr 2018

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