Best Eaten Cold by Stuart Pawson

by Arun

Source: Best Eaten Cold and Other Stories

Story Number: 105

From the introduction: “Murder Squad is a group of crime writers, friends first met at meetings of the northern chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association and who decided to band together to promote their work. The squad was founded in the spring of 2000.” The members include Martin Edwards(who is also the editor of this anthology), Margaret Murphy(founder), Ann Cleeves, Stuart Pawson, Cath Stiancliffe and two others who have moved away from crime fiction. This collection is their second anthology, published 10 years after the first one. Halfway into the book, I’ve absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to crime story aficionados.

Jessica Fullerton was known as the Queen of Short Story Writers and Artemesia is a writer who is struggling to get her stories published! Jessica’s stories are aired on the radio weekly and one such story turns out to be written by Artemesia. During the annual symposium event of short story writers, she starts dropping hints that her story was plagiarized by Jessica. 3 other unknown writers approach her and confess that they also had noticed something similar – a story written by them had been featured on the radio under Jessica’s byline. These 4 authors decide to meet at a later date and when they exchange notes, they realize that all of them had submitted their stories to a particular short story competition in which Jessica was the judge and she must have collected all the rejected entries and developed it as her own creations at a later stage!

They are unanimous in the decision that they should punish Jessica, though the punishment decided upon looks to be an extreme – murder! Each one of them decides to come up with their own means of a murder method and the next third of the book shows the hilarious approach of each of the 4 authors trying (finding a gun, finding a poison and administering it, making a bomb & finding a heavy weapon which could do a clean job) and failing in their mission to identify a foolproof method. In their next meeting, they rule out murder but instead come up with an ingenious way of pooling in their skills to mete out the apt punishment and what follows is brilliantly conceived and a memorable piece of storytelling!