THOMAS BURKE – THE HANDS OF MR OTTERSHAW

hands

Oh my goodness. Not being a fan of hyperbole as a rule, I admit to taking a bit of a dim view of Ellery Queen’s assertion that this was the best crime story ever written. Now I’ve read it, though, I’m very disinclined to argue. It’s flipping brilliant and easily the best story in the Capital Crimes collection – and this collection has some fantastic stories in it.

Written in an easy, conversational style – a mix of film noir voiceover and a chat with a clever storyteller – it recounts the Madden End Murders, which were committed by a serial strangler who seemed to appear and disappear at will and which remained unsolved. The mystery is, however, finally cleared up but not before a fantastic twist in the final couple of paragraphs that really took my breath away.

To say any more really would be spoiling it.

I don’t know why this story isn’t better known. It’s a complete masterclass in setting and suspense in short story writing, and deserves to be used as a role model of what can be achieved in short fiction. So, friends and readers, do your bit – buy a copy of Capital Crimes and read this story (you can read all the others as well, while you’re at it). You won’t regret it one bit.

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