Many Deadly Returns by The Murder Squad

A dawn swim turns deadly in a brand-new short story starring DCI Vera Stanhope . . . Two bored cell-mates play a game with chilling results . . . A hen night in an isolated cottage brings new meaning to ‘I will survive’ . . . A train traveller teaches a valuable lesson in reading labels . . . A day at the seaside turns stormy for a woman who doesn’t care for foreigners . . . A wealthy retiree makes a new friend who connects her to the Other Side . . . and much much more.

The Murder Squad has been in business for twenty-one years, promoting crime writing in the North of England. Friends of the blog Martin Edwards and Kate Ellis, along with Ann Cleeves, Cath Staincliffe, Margaret Murphy and Chris Simms, along with three former members of the group have got together to put together twenty-one short stories to form this collection.

How to review a collection of short stories? It’s always tricky, especially with no particular linking theme for the tales. They are a mixture of thrillers, mini-mysteries and tales with a twist, and the majority of them are very good. As one might expect, the stand-out ones for me were from Kate and Martin, with Ann Cleeves’ tales (one of which features the long-lost Inspector Ramsay, one of Ann’s early, pre-Vera sleuths) also being top-notch, but the vast majority of the rest are all very good.

As I said, it’s hard to critique a collection of unrelated short stories – and I’m afraid I don’t have time to go over them one by one – but if I had to niggle, I’d say that a few too many of the tales all have a central twist in common. The tales are all very distinct, and that particular twist is fairly common in short stories, but I came away from some of the later stories with a bit of an “oh, that again” feeling.

Regardless of that, this is a very strong collection of tales, one of the most engrossing I’ve read in a long time. Definitely worth your time.

Many Deadly Returns is out now in hardback and ebook from Severn House.

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