Masters of Murder: short, sharp stabs

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!

7/10
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Masters of Murder by Eagle Monsoon is available at Amazon

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Looking for more snappy short stories?

Try the quick thrills and sharp endings in The Stoner Stories

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