• Frigid by Thomas Enger

    Frigid by Thomas Enger

    She could barely hear the sound of her own knock at the door. But it didn’t matter; somebody called her in, and slowly she pushed on the door handle, cold against her fingertips. She nudged the door open a fraction and stuck her head through the gap. It was like being at school again – just like the time she and Martine had been sent to the head teacher after locking Elisabeth in the toilet. But it wasn’t the head teacher who stood up and approached her this time. The man who made his way towards her was smiling at her; he had rolled up the sleeves of his uniform shirt, revealing arms darkened by the sun and hair that matched the shade of the three or four days’ worth of stubble on his face. ‘Thank you for coming in so soon,’ he said. Read More

  • Christmas Night Out by Michael J Malone

    Christmas Night Out by Michael J Malone

    A prostitute, Rob thought. That’s what I need, a prostitute. He shrunk down in his seat and looked around the table at his colleagues in their party clothes, paper hats and booze-rouged faces. He thought for a moment that he’d said it out loud. Not that anyone could hear over the sound of Slade. Or was it Wizard? Mud. It was Mud. Whatever; it was music from another century. Shows how rubbish the current pop scene was that they couldn’t even come up with decent Christmas songs. He surveyed the vast space – fairy lights and Santa banners everywhere. His employers had taken two of the tables. The throngs arrived. Sat. Had a few drinks. Got fed a ‘take-it or leave-it’ menu by an army of waiters. Prawn cocktail. Turkey and trimmings. Christmas pud. There was a choice for the veggies. Apparently. Read More

  • The Haunting by Michael Stanley

    The Haunting by Michael Stanley

      The car that pulled up in front of Makanya’s house was a black 3-series BMW. It wasn’t new, and grey smoke clouded from the exhaust, but it was a BMW. Makanya, who was drinking water with ice in the shade of his veranda, was immediately interested.       The driver was a big man, dressed in a pressed white shirt with the sleeves rolled up against the Zululand summer humidity and slacks that looked as though they were part of a suit. He was carrying three hard-cover binders with the words Ledger, Journal, and Cash Book in gold lettering on the covers. Makanya hoped he wasn’t from the government. With a sigh, he stood up and greeted the visitor. Read More

  • Spirit of Christmas by Su Bristow

    Spirit of Christmas by Su Bristow

    It’s boiling hot in my niece’s overcrowded sitting room, crammed with assorted parents, stepchildren, in-laws and outlaws, two dogs who hate each other, and a giant Christmas tree now rather the worse for wear. Wrapping paper everywhere, presents all jumbled up, children scarlet with excitement. I’m not normally claustrophobic these days, but right now I want to lift the curtain behind me and fly like a bird into the cool dark, rising far, far above it all, until all the multicoloured Christmas lights dwindle into a scatter of embroidery on the velvet earth. Read More

  • Learning To Breathe by Louise Beech

    Learning To Breathe by Louise Beech

    I’m home, he called, his belt buckle as polished as ocean stones, his tone an undercurrent more dangerous than the words… Bubbles carry Kate’s hurt to the surface. Some spiral, fast, swirling like tiny kites caught in a playful wind. Others zigzag through freezing water, lazy, burdened with the heaviest of pain. She hears them popping at the meniscus, sees her worries dissolve in a soapy haze and fly out through the cracks in the tiles. It is all there is. She is. The water is. The bubble is. Read More

  • Kingfisher by Paul E. Hardisty

    Kingfisher by Paul E. Hardisty

    They’d only been on the river two days and already he knew it had been a mistake. A mistake coming back to Africa in the first place, taking this job; a mistake thinking that anything would ever change, that he could change it. Read More

  • A Moment by the Sea by Ragnar Jónasson (written in English by the author)

    A Moment by the Sea by Ragnar Jónasson (written in English by the author)

    He couldn’t see the ocean any more but he could still smell its scent, stronger than ever. Read More

  • The KKK Took My Baby Away by David F. Ross

    The KKK Took My Baby Away by David F. Ross

    I have Jasper to thank for my enduring love of The Ramones and my unshakeable belief that they were the most influential yet under-rated band of all time. In the late, boiling summer of 1976, when I was about to enter my thirteenth year on this planet, he was the first manifestation of anything ‘punk’ any of us had ever seen. Jasper’s real name was Anthony Taylor. Read More

  • Elias by Kati Hiekkapelto (translated by Claire Dickenson)

    Elias by Kati Hiekkapelto (translated by Claire Dickenson)

    A harsh north wind punished the city. I braced myself against its onslaught, and struggled towards the Stockmann department store. Read More

  • Gone with the Tide by Gunnar Staalesen (translated by Rosie Hedger)

    Gone with the Tide by Gunnar Staalesen (translated by Rosie Hedger)

           ‘There’s no such thing as the perfect crime,’ I insisted. ‘Oh really?’ he replied, his expression bordering on exasperation.         We had met in the kind of place to which men flock to have a pint or three, usually alone, though never in pursuit of the fairer sex. If that’s their objective, they pick a different spot. Ninety-nine per cent of the clientele around us were men, and those women present were either lost tourists who had stumbled in, unaware of the nature of their surroundings, or the odd escort, watched as keenly as a hawk eyes up a homeless hen. Read More