This is a clever confection of 15 tales of the unexpected, in which someone deserving dies an appropriate death – and the killer gets away scot-free thanks to meticulous planning and fancy footwork. For such a dark subject, these stories offer an implausible helping of fun as you attempt to second-guess the plot twists: who is setting up whom, how will the evil deed be accomplished, and how the culprit will escape detection?
You might imagine stories which explore in-depth the mechanics of the perfect crime to be a little bleak, maybe shocking or warped. But this anthology isn’t bitter or explicit or violent: the ‘perfect murderers’ are all on the side of the angels although their methods are far from legal. They’re all righting wrongs which the justice system has missed – domestic cruelty, child abuse or stalking – and there’s no doubt that each new murder victim deserved his or her final fate, be they a contract killer, violent thug or predatory paedophile. You get the impression that the author has a lot of fun concocting each delicious episode of revenge, and most of the tales are extremely satisfying.
There’s also a lot of depth to these short tales, pulling in plenty of real-world background to give the characters genuine individuality. The author obviously has more than a passing familiarity with unarmed combat and football teams…
Sometimes the scenarios are a little too clever to be credible; too convoluted to feel real. Would someone who’d just won millions on the lottery really give away his ticket to manipulate a crime boss into killing a younger thug? And some of the upper class characters and their clichéd situations felt too contrived and twee to me.
But I really enjoyed the young woman who learned a martial art to deliver her retaliation. The story of the young man driven to extreme measures by a psychotic girlfriend was a really neat scenario which defied expectations. I also liked the inclusion of a ‘super recogniser’ in one story; those unusual people who can spot a single face in a crowd of thousands. How that talent helps him to commit a perfect murder is another matter altogether…
A couple of the stories would benefit from streamlining with an editor’s input to aid clarity at the vital moment – sometimes the final reveal was almost so subtle you could miss it. But overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable and unpredictable collection of killings: not something you get to say every day!
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Masters of Murder by Eagle Monsoon is available at Amazon
Looking for more snappy short stories?
Try the quick thrills and sharp endings in The Stoner Stories