Edited by Andy Cox

Reviewed by Terry Grimwood

The rules are: no noir, no hard-boiled, no procedural. So what exactly do you find in the pages of a journal named Crimewave? It was a mystery to me, until I opened the pages of the beautifully presented Issue Nine.

From first to last, the stories in Crimewave Nine are skilfully crafted, tightly plotted and a joy to read. The collection opens with Blue Morpho by Shelley Costa, a quiet yet menacing examination of discreet murder and its consequences, in which a lake and surrounding landscape are as much characters as the humans. From here, the weather gets stormy for Carlisle-set The Night of the Great Wind, Mick Scully's dark meeting of disparate-yet-connected characters, literally and figuratively blown together during a gale.

Things get enigmatic and claustrophobic for Gary W. Shockley's The Rainbow Killer in which a serial killer, who might or might not be a Judy garland fan, indeed, might or might not exist at all, apparently stalks the city. Who is the woman who arrives in a fear-wracked black community? Who is the streetwise scoundrel she gets mixed up with?

Stealing from Garbo by Ron Savage sharply, and with great wit, focuses on a career thief who finally meets his match and Dogwood by Susan Overcash Walker takes you into the mind of a serial killer who has to make one last sacrifice to stop his own lethal habit. A remorselessly brutal tale that is also strangely moving and one of the highlights of the collection.

Scott William Carter's Last Stop on Dowling Street snapshots a violently seminal moment in the life of a racist bigot and leaves you as sweaty and over-the-shoulder-glancing as its unpleasant protagonist. You Will be Wearing Green by Daniel Bennett warns of the dangers of talking to strangers. In A Handful of Ashes by Ian R Faulkner a widower finds a way of being truly joined to his late wife, while Robert Weston investigates the secret of the Black Box and troubles you with the emotional dilemma of the man who intends to steal it in Thinking of Alice.

Final furlong now and it's Kevin Prufer on The Gold Watch, dark yet optimistic and peopled with a truly affecting relationship between a sharp-witted young boy and a hardened cop, closely followed by Work in Progress, Scott Nicholson's thoroughbred story of uneasy reunion and bloody art. Coming up on the outside as they round the last corner is The Frozen Lake by John Shirley, my personal favourite, which takes you into the model-kit filled attic of a taciturn, self-absorbed husband, where his long-suffering wife finds some vile secrets. So, what would you do in her place?

Andy Cox has, for me, always been a difficult editor to please. Not because he's a sulking tyrant, but because the target he sets for submitted fiction is both notoriously specific and yet hard to define. A difficult target that, in this case, has resulted in a publication of excellence.

Crimewave Nine: Transgressions edited by Andy Cox. Digest size, 164pp, £6.99 or £22/4 (non-UK, refer website). Published by TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambs CB6 2LB.

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