cover image Perfectly Criminal

Perfectly Criminal

Martin Edwards. Severn House Publishers, $24 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-7278-5132-1

Crime Writers' Association anthologies have appeared annually for 40 years, skipping only 1995. Nineteen members of the CWA have contributed new stories to this collection, first published in Great Britain in 1996. Kate Charles, a transplanted American and current chairman of the CWA, contributes ""Sheep's Clothing,"" which demonstrates how engaging a short story can be. Another charmer is editor Edwards's artful ""Where Do You Find Your Ideas?"" What makes many of these stories work so well, including Edwards's and Charles's, is the twist--that abrupt hairpin turn that comes in the last few sentences. Other notable examples include ""This Way Nobody Gets the Blame"" by Lesley Grant-Adamson, ""Disposing of Mrs. Cronk"" by Peter Lovesey and ""Choose Your Poison"" by Tony Wilmot. Not all genre conventions, nor all of the selections, are so adeptly handled. The theme of interchangeable identities becomes a tired gimmick in ""Abstain From Beans"" by Lindsey Davis and in H.R.F. Keating's ""An (Almost) Perfect Alibi."" Overall, however, there is gratifying variety in these tales from a group of skilled and inventive writers. (Apr.)