The Best New True Crime Stories: Small Towns edited by Mitzi Szereto – Review
By Sarah Morgan
I’ve got a bone to pick with whoever came up with the title of this tome. It does not contain new true crime stories; in fact, several of them are quite old. I thought that maybe ‘The Best Untold True Crime Stories: Small Towns’ might be better, until I realised I was already familiar with some of them.
So I’ve had to learn to live with the book’s name. The volume itself is the second entry in ‘The Best New True Crime Stories’ series, which began with Serial Killers. The idea seems to be to reveal that murders don’t just take place in big cities; they can happen in seemingly peaceful conurbations too – something anybody who’s ever lived in a small town, which is probably most of us, already knew.
There are some interesting tales here, including the violent death of a Bangladeshi national in 1994, which was the first murder recorded in the Orkneys for 20 years, a spree killing in Washington State in 2008 carried out by a mentally ill young man, and an attack on a Tuscan farm girl in 1947.
“Handful of intriguing cases”
My problem with the book as a whole is that sometimes, the cases needed to be pruned a little bit. Some of them carry a little too much information about the towns in which they take place – a little for colour or to explain the background of a place is fine, but anything more than that and it becomes almost a travelogue.
Let’s face it, anybody reading the book simply wants to know what happened there. Occasionally there’s some repetition that could be cut out too.
What I’d have really liked to see are more stories from people with personal experience of the towns depicted, to give a real insight into their impact on the locals.
I’m also not sure what the point of the volume is – if it’s to merely highlight certain cases, fair enough, but perhaps either stick to famous ones or ones unlikely to be known by a wide readership rather than a mix of both.
Perhaps it’s saying that such events take place across the globe, so we have more in common than we think; to paraphrase Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder in their appalling song ‘Ebony and Ivory’, people are the same wherever we go – good and bad.
Whatever the reason, if you’re a crime fan looking for something not too demanding, then you’ll find it an intriguing time-passer. And even if I do have some reservations about the book itself, it wouldn’t put me off reading more in the series – editor Mitzi Szereto has found a handful of intriguing cases to cover, so I’m interested to see what she comes up with next.
‘The Best New True Crime Stories: Small Towns’ edited by Mitzi Szereto is published by Mango Publishing on paperback and ebook