Guilty Consciences: a Crime Writers’ Association Anthology

I’ve taken my time reading this collection of short stories Guilty Consciences: a Crime Writers’ Association Anthology, edited by Martin Edwards, who has also contributed one of the stories. I read them one or two at a time, which for me is the best way.

The contributors are Robert Barnard, Ann Cleeves, Bernie Crosthwaite, Judith Cutler, Carol Anne Davis, Martin Edwards, Jane Finnis, Peter James, Alanna Knight, Susan Moody, Sarah Rayne, Claire Seeber, L.C.Tyler, Dan Waddell and Yvonne Walus, and there is an introduction from the current Chair of the CWA, Peter James.

I haven’t been too keen on short stories in the past but I enjoyed this collection and think it’s one of the best I’ve read. As Peter James writes in his introduction:

I believe the short story is long overdue for a renaissance, and the ideal literary form for our increasingly busy, time-poor modern lives. What better for a quick read between tube station stops, or using your e-reader to turn a tedious airport security queue into fifteen minutes of surprises and delight?

Or as I found the ideal length to read at breakfast.

As the title suggests the stories all reveal various aspects of a guilty conscience. I find it hard to write about short stories without giving away the plot, so here are just a few notes on some. There are many I could pick out but these particularly stand out in my memory, now that I’ve read the book:

  • Hector’s Other Woman by Ann Cleeves – an intriguing insight into Vera Stanhope’s past and her motivation for joining the police, as Vera recollects her visit to Holy Island with her father whilst she was in the middle of her A-level year.
  • Squeaky by Martin Edwards – about a couple who both have something to hide and how their marriage began to fall apart when Squeaky came into their lives.
  • Deck the Hall with Poison Ivy by Susan Moody – a cautionary story about Christmas and a family’s arrangements.
  • The Train by Dan Waddell – as a husband anxiously waits for the return of his estranged wife he remembers their lives together and vows it will be different this time.

All the contributions were written specially for this collection with the exception of The Visitor by H R F Keating, who died in 2011, a story that had previously been included in a Penguin India collection, featuring Inspector Ghote. Ghote’s visitor is consumed with guilt about something that he had done in the past – but had he?

An excellent collection.

13 thoughts on “Guilty Consciences: a Crime Writers’ Association Anthology”

  1. I love a good collection of short stories. That’s all I seemed to be able to manage when my boys were young. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the format. Thanks.

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  2. I’m not sure why short stories have fallen in popularity as they’re one of my favorite forms of fiction, and this anthology sounds marvelous. A way to get a taste of a good variety of authors.

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  3. There are a number of writers here I either haven’t read or have found difficult to get into, perhaps I should give this a go as a way of easing myself into their work.

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  4. I do like short stories Margaret but I don’t read enough of them. I’ll look out for this anthology as it contains stories by writers that I like very much.

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  5. I’ve never been much for short stories either but the one about Vera alone is worth reading this group! They do sound interesting. Will see if my library has this collection and have it for breakfast too!

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  6. I gave up on short stories when the current rage was stories with no real ending and it was left to the reader to decide what happened. I hated that, so I went back to reading books, preferably with a beginning, a middle and an end. Maybe times have changed and so should I.

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  7. I’m very glad you enjoyed this anthology. It’s surprisingly difficult to get publishers interested in short story collections, though I would have thought they are ideal in this age of short attention spans. But I hope the CWA anthology series will continue, not least because it’s such a privilege for me as an editor to be the first to read some wonderful stories, not only by stellar names,but also by relative newcomers to publication.

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    1. I do hope the CWA anthology series will continue. It’s a very good introduction to readers to both well known authors and to newer ones. It’s not only an age of short attention spans – it also seems to be an age where some people don’t take the time to read and short stories are ideal for a quick read.

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