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.