Old Wounds: A Nick Shelby Case and Other Crime Stories by Tom Batt

Old Wounds: A Nick Shelby Case and Other Crime Stories by Tom Batt
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQ, Historical, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Old Wounds: A Nick Shelby Case and Other Crime Stories is a collection of 15 short crime stories from dark detective noir to domestic murder, crossing time periods as far back as the Victorian era and into the near future. Some with a twist of horror, science fiction or the supernatural. Each story revolves around intriguing characters with twists and turns and on occasion a sting in the tail.

Private investigator Nick Shelby is struggling to move on from the abrupt and unexplained departure of Louise, the woman he loved. When she turns up dead in Mexico, he sets off to investigate her death and, in the process, unravels a web of lies and betrayal woven together by a roster of shady characters in 1940s Los Angeles. A mysterious man thought to be dead, a deceiving doctor and a notorious gangster are all connected, but the big question is who killed Louise and why?

Plus, three small town sheriff’s deputies are made a tempting offer by a sinister stranger they’ve arrested; a young prostitute tracks down the man who murdered her friend and exacts brutal revenge; in the near future where reproduction is regulated a desperate mother will risk everything to have a child of her own and in Victorian London a married couple encounter one of the city’s most infamous criminals and find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Sometimes the fringes of society are the most interesting places to be.

After going broke and nearly losing their home, George’s wife decided to work as a prostitute to keep her family housed and fed in “An Unexpected Encounter in Spitalfields.” His angry response to the way their community treated them once word of her new occupation got out piqued my interest. I had a lot of compassion for this couple and was curious to see how they’d manage their financial woes as well as the stigma they faced. There were some wonderful twists in this tale that kept me guessing, and the final surprise was the best one of them all.

“A Deadly Suspicion” began with Cooper and Gabe making small talk as they got rid of a body. I was intrigued by how casually these characters cleaned up the scene of the death and how much more attention they paid to other concerns in their lives like making sure their hair looked good. That wasn’t how I’d expect anyone to behave in that situation at all, so I couldn’t imagine what their reasoning was for it. As intrigued as I was by their unusual behavior, I did find myself wishing that they’d gone into more detail about why they were so used to handling dead bodies and how they were planning to get away with their crimes. This was a pattern I noticed in a few other stories here as well. I would have gone with a higher rating if the author had been a little more methodical about explaining what was going on in them.

Russell was dismayed to learn that his mistress was pregnant in “Fatal Infidelity.” After his mistress died in a car accident a short time later, he had to figure out how to cover up the evidence of their affair and her death. I thought I knew where everything was going based on the beginning and middle of it, so it was a pleasant surprise to see how many tricks the author still had up his sleeve as the characters moved closer to the climax. This was quite creative and was one of my favorite tales of them all.

Old Wounds: A Nick Shelby Case and Other Crime Stories was a well-rounded collection that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys all sorts of different types of mysteries.

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