3 out of 4 stars
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Sinful is a book of eight short stories from a collective of seven Irish crime authors who call themselves “the3percenters.” In “Sessions with Elena,” a psychiatrist's narcissistic and psychotic patient becomes obsessed with her. “Eleven O Two” deals with Barry, a dissatisfied office employee who catches a train home from a work function and meets an attractive redhead even drunker than him. In “You Must Be Good for Something but You Ain't No Good to Me,” debt collector Charlie's latest assignment proves more complicated than usual. “Goodbye Bella Bailey” describes the folly of a man who thought he could have it all, while "Number Five" is about Daniel, a young family man who enjoys hiking alone in the beautiful Irish countryside – and not just for the hiking. These stories and more make up this highly entertaining anthology.
The idea of forming a collective like “the3percenters” to promote emerging writers is brilliant. With so many talented, struggling writers and artists out there, it’s great to see some taking the initiative to promote themselves in groups. I can tell you now: “the3percenters” have plenty of talent. “Sessions with Elena” was fantastic, featuring great characterisation, suspense, drama, beautiful editing, and a powerful twist ending. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
“Eleven O Two” was a dark, rivetting tale of a disturbed man dissatisfied with life, while “You Must Be Good for Something but You Ain’t No Good to Me” was a cracking, raw, street-smart story featuring some clever humour. “Goodbye Bella Bailey” beautifully highlighted the perils of becoming involved with a broken woman: a manipulative, controlling, malignant narcissist. “The Porkeen in the Pulper Shed” dealt with the disturbing psychology of a young social misfit in a relatively sympathetic way.
“Number Five” was brilliant, its innocuous set-up followed by not one but two shattering twists – simple, dark storytelling at its best. I found “Tainted Love” satisfying and fulfilling, given it depicted the ultimate fall of a morally bankrupt human being. Finally, “All That Glisters” offered a powerful and disturbing glimpse into a violent relationship and the destructive personality behind it. My favourite stories in this collection were “Sessions with Elena,” “You Must Be Good for Something but You Ain't No Good to Me,” “Goodbye Bella Bailey,” and “Number Five.” However, I enjoyed all the stories to varying degrees; there were none that didn't feel well-written and engaging.
As for negatives, there were some missing commas on occasion, plus other minor typographical errors, mostly after the first 100 well-edited pages. I must, therefore, rate Sinful 3 out of 4 stars. However, with the editing fixed, it would be a definite 4-star book. Anyone who enjoys quality crime fiction would love this book, with its strong character development, twist endings, and the dark yet irresistible pull of human beings with serious psychological issues. It did contain some profanity and erotic scenes, but I found both suitable for the genre.
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