Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Satisfying Shorts for All Cathy Ace

This week’s challenge is tough, and I have wrestled with it for days. 

"Write a review of your own work," they said. 
"Oh good," I thought, "that’ll be fun." 
But it’s not. It’s really difficult.

My hat’s off to those who write meaningful reviews, as opposed to pithy blurbs; thank you for taking the time to read my work, and for the countless hours you must put into crafting well-thought-out pieces that satisfy readers looking for insights that will help them decide if the book you’re reviewing will appeal to them, and prove engaging.

Here goes....

Satisfying Shorts for All Tastes 
 Cathy Ace’s new anthology: 

“Life is like a box of chocolates.” Forrest Gump’s oft-quoted belief could be applied to Cathy Ace’s new anthology MURDER KEEPS NO CALENDAR, which contains a variety of soft centered shorts, chewier novellas, and even a few tough-nut surprises. Having been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story in 2017, I am pleased this author has decided to pull together a wide selection of her short, and longer, stories in this volume, providing readers with the perfect companion for a rainy, snowy, sunny or just any day.

In this collection of twelve murderous tales – each one associated with a different month of the year – fans of Ace’s two successful series finally get answers to the questions: “How did Cait Morgan and Bud Anderson first meet?” and “Why did the women who work at the WISE Enquiries Agency decide to become private investigators?” I also predict that for those who haven’t yet met Ace’s series characters, this satisfying-in-itself volume will make them want to read more of her work, and I urge them to do so.

The anthology opens with a short story entitled DEAR GEORGE, one of two tales that have already been produced for BBC Radio 4, and the first short story Ace ever had published. It’s got quite a twist in the tale/tail, something Ace manages to deliver time and time again in this book. This is possibly most in evidence in the short story “Shannah’s Racecar” – which should come with a “Whiplash is Possible” warning. 

Welsh Canadian professor of criminal psychology Cait Morgan features in three stories, one of which allows for some of the niftiest ratiocination I’ve read outside Conan Doyle’s. The WISE women feature in just one, but it's the one which explains the dark truth behind why they came together, and stick together. In each case the characters Ace’s readers have come to love in her – to date – dozen novels have a brighter light thrown upon their backstories, something I found made me want to revisit some of her early Cait Morgan books, which I first read five or six years ago. 

A recurring character readers meet for the first time in this collection is Detective Inspector Evan Glover, for whom I developed a surprisingly rapid respect. Glover’s an endearing chap, thankfully lacking the perturbations that seem to plague most fictional DIs, and his DS, Liz Stanley, is a diligent Bristolian, whose main challenge is getting used to living and working in South Wales where her accent causes great amusement. I liked them, and I think Ace’s existing fans will also warm to them, along with Glover’s intelligent wife, Betty.

Other standalone stories offer a variety of laugh-out-loud moments, a slow-burn example of domestic suspense, a fast-paced thriller, historical cogitations on the value of human life, and a smattering of surprising serial killers. None of these stories are likely to alienate Ace's current body of readers, but they do suggest the author's recently announced plan to work more in the realm of domestic suspense/thriller/procedural is likely to be based upon a firm foundation.

Ace’s signature ability to transport readers to the places she’s writing about is on display – stories are set in diverse locations including Florence, Shanghai, an Oxfordshire country tea shop, and both Wales and Canada. As always, I could not only see her settings, but enjoyed the sounds and smells that accompany them, always lifting her descriptions from the page and transforming this readers’ own surroundings. 

VERDICT: A satisfying selection of stories which reward the reader with puzzles solved, cases cracked, friendships formed, and killers caught, which should be on your bookshelf in case you find yourself with anything between fifteen minutes and several hours to spare.Will appeal to those who enjoy sleuths, procedurals, thrillers, domestic suspense, and even laugh out loud mysteries. Link to view, click here.
5 stars *****

You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers:


RM Greenaway said...

This sounds appealing indeed, especially to someone who is just getting back into reading short stories after years of preferring novels - like me! Will grab for my Kindle.

Cathy Ace said...

So pleased the reviewer caught your fancy, Rachel! Having returned to anthologies of short stories for reading pleasure myself, I find them satisfying - quick closure.

James Ziskin said...

Great post, Cathy! Who the hell suggested this topic anyway?

Cathy Ace said...

Thanks Jim...and I am saying nothing, as I reach for the vodka! (Wednesday is officially Midweek Martini Day)

Catriona McPherson said...

This is the most intimidating blog I've ever faced. I'm tomorrow and I'm still thinking of cheats to get round it.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Catriona - I'm with you...wondering if I could get a note from my Mum! I am not lying when I tell you this took as many hours at the keyboard (and walking in the snow-covered garden) as many a knotty chapter! Good luck...I know you'll do a great job :-)

Kathy Reel said...

Great review, Cathy. I'm not sure this book got by me, but I've ordered it now and am looking forward to reading it.

Anonymous said...
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Cathy Ace said...

Hi Kathy - thanks for that...though I'm not sure how you keep up with all the books coming out (especially at this time of year)!