Exit Wounds edited by Paul B Kane and Marie O'Regan

I would like to thank Sarah at Titan for an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Publisher – Titan

Price - £7.99

Published – Out Now

A brand-new anthology of crime stories written by masters of the genre. Featuring both original in-universe stories and rarely seen reprints, this collection of nineteen masterful short stories brings together some of the genre’s greatest living authors…

Crime stories are often staring us at the shelves and series and stand-alone thrillers are a constant part of life. But we often forget that there is a tradition of the crime short story just think of the Holmes canon. While you don’t get the thrill of the wider investigation and the slow building tension a short story can just go for the jugular, the mood or even a simple mystery. In this anthology the editors Paul B Kane and Marie O’Regan have assembled a great collection of stories based around an exit wound – be it actual or metaphorical.

The stories that stood out to me were

The Bully by Jeffrey Deaver – a very gentle young man finds himself being stalked by a bad-tempered obnoxious bully who likes to publicly humiliate him. Deaver really plays with our sympathies and watching the story shift into a much more gruesome direction is both impressive and chilling.

Dead Weight by Fiona Cummins – Lula is constantly tormented by her mother regards her weight. A family wedding invitation increases the stresses in the relationship. Cummins gets you to see Lula’s world from her eyes and both heart-breaking and worrying where your sympathies eventually lie when a young woman needs to break free.

Glass Jaw by Mark Billingham – an old man is persuaded to join an aerobics class, but he finds a woman in trouble.  His skills from the past may be needed one last time.  All told in the lead’s voice which is engaging and it’s a bittersweet tale that easily shifts from comedy to something darker and tragic.

On the anatomization of an unknown man (1637) by Frans Mier – by John Connolly – A man describes a gruesome artwork of a dissection. But as the history of the picture is told we realise everything is not quite what it seems. Disturbingly good and one of my favourites.

Disciplined by Martyn Waites – A grieving widower recounts the love of his life and what she awakened in him. This story is painful, emotional and troubling picture of someone who has got very lost.

Voices Through the Wall by Alex Gray – A woman talk about her relationship with her child who is now infamous. An incredibly sad tale that reminds us that sometimes in crime there are victims we never think about who must live with the consequences of others.  Really well told and another favourite.

Happy Holidays by Val McDermid – here we have a new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan investigation.  A man is found burned alive and a teacher drowned. They piece together the puzzle and realise it’s linked to holiday and revenge. Really well paced mystery with an intriguing premise and chief suspect.

Lebensraum by Christopher Fowler – One of the most haunting tales I’ve read.  A widow allows a young couple expecting to live with them. Her good deed though becomes an endless cycle of abuse and despair. The reader slowly realises what is going and on and its terrifying where it may be finally heading towards. A standout tale.

Kittens by Dean Koontz – A young girl brought up in a religious household starts to question her family’s activities.  A very simple act of brutality leads on the last page to something truly horrific and its delivered smartly.

Take My Hand by A K Benedict – A museum lecturer tells a GCSE the story of a Hand of Glory and finds herself being bullied by two teenage girls. This tale swerves into the supernatural which is impressive and gives you a great set of unexpected events in the end as the girls plan some awful revenge. Satisfyingly devilish!!

Dressed to Kill by James Oswald – Another impressive tale with a touch of the weird to it.  An inspector finds a repeating cycle of people killing others or themselves going back many years and it seems to be linked. Its very quietly sinister and watching characters fall into some dark places makes the final page outside of their control shiver.

The Recipe by Louise Jensen – an excellent final story where a woman talks of the loss of her husband very powerfully and the story does a complete 180 into something truly nasty but done gloriously.  The reader doesn’t see it coming until after the reveal which is brilliantly delivered with a knowing smile.

A well put together collection that shows the reader what crime novelists can deliver in just a few pages.  Lots of variety, thrills and twists plus well-balanced emotional depth.  If you want to find some new authors to then track down this is a brilliant place to explore where crime now is.