With debut novels from a bumper crop of outstanding new writers last year (including Derek Nikitas, J.T. Ellison, Marc Lecard and Chicago's own Sakey and Sean Chercover), 2007 was undeniably a killer year for crime fiction. With that in mind, this brilliantly conceived anthology -- described as a "sampler" by editor Lee Child -- features short stories from 13 of last year's biggest and brightest newcomers as well as three additional stories from veterans Ken Bruen, Duane Swierczynski and Allison Brennan. This collection has no weak links, but a few stories stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Chercover's "One Serving of Bad Luck," which features Chicago private detective Ray Dudgeon (introduced in his debut novel "Big City, Bad Blood"), is a hard-boiled thriller that revolves around a horrific car accident, a multimillion-dollar settlement and a wayward witness. "Runaway," by Nikitas -- a subtly nuanced chronicle of the misadventures of two 15-year-old boys in western New York who meet with a mysterious runaway girl -- is equal parts coming-of-age tale and supernatural mystery. "Gravity and Need," by Sakey, perhaps the collection's most memorable selection, is a haunting, disturbing story of how misfortune tests the limits of a couple madly in love. Bill Cameron's "Slice of Pie" is an irony-filled gem about an ill-tempered son protecting his naive mother from a perceived scam artist; and Toni McGee Causey's uproarious "A Failure to Communicate" revisits Louisiana and the irrepressible Bobbie Faye Sumrall (from her debut "Bobbie Faye's Very (Very, Very, Very) Bad Day") as she takes down a group of bumbling thieves with some good old-fashioned sociopathic ingenuity and one well-placed fish hook.
"Killer Year" is not just an exceptional collection of crime fiction short stories but also a savvy promotional tool: Readers will undoubtedly find themselves seeking out any number of debut novels from the featured authors, be it Sakey's "The Blade Itself," Lecard's "Vinnie's Head," Nikitas' "Pyres," or any number of others.