Morgen’s story review no.147 – OxCrimes 3: Simon Lewis’ Buy and Bust

03 Mar

Today’s book review of a single short story (the third in the 27-story charity crime anthology OxCrimes collection) is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.

I rarely read ‘proper’ books (paperbacks / hardbacks) and I’d wanted to read this collection for a while so bought it as a paperback so I could sit and read at least one short story a day. (I’m also writing short stories for competitions and submissions too and have sent three off in the last week!).

If you’d like your short story or writing guide reviewed, or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The OxCrimes Collection

OxCrimesFor 2014, Oxfam and Profile Books have turned to crime in order to raise a further £200,000 for Oxfam’s work. OxCrimes is introduced by Ian Rankin and has been curated by Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, where it will be launched in May. The stellar cast of contributors will include Mark Billingham, Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, Val McDermid, Peter James, Adrian McKinty, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh and a host of other compelling suspects. Profile Books have raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Oxfam by publishing OxTales (2009) and OxTravels (9781846684968) (2011).

This collection is available via and

Review of Simon Lewis’ Buy and Bust

This is a short short story (16 standard book pages) so a short review…

As all good short stories do, this one starts with the action; with a detective getting into a car, driven by a dodgy criminal.

In the author biography, there is no mention of where Simon lives so it was a very pleasant surprise when the characters drive down a road about five miles away from me, and the main character’s description of the town I live in made me laugh. 🙂

In a couple of places, Simon uses a modern way of writing, with verbs starting a sentence and no pronouns mentioned, i.e. no he or she or character name. This takes place between dialogue so it is clear who is speaking, but it’s not a style I particularly like.

In the previous story (see yesterday’s review), I had spotted a couple of errors, and in this one there was a missing open inverted comma when one of the characters speaks, which in itself is not the worst mistake ever, except that I started reading that paragraph as narration rather than speech but then realised that it was coming from one of the characters.

There was also an Asthon rather than Ashton (the detective’s surname), which I’d have thought would’ve been picked up by the spellcheck.

Regular readers of these reviews will know that one of my bugbears in dialogue is ‘well’ at the beginning of sentences. There are a few in this story – and from more than one character (one English, the other Eastern European) which I’d never recommend, and they could easily have been taken out without losing anything (kill your darlings!). There were also places where the description and dialogue relating to the same character weren’t married up, so wasn’t obvious who was speaking, making me re-read some passages in order to follow what was going on.

The rest of the writing – with the exception of the missing pronouns – is very good, and the description of the driver was superb: ‘Arms like baseballs stuffed in a stocking, meandering veins as random as rivers on a map.’ (although that had a comma after veins which shouldn’t have been there)


I did like the story but some parts were confusing, with errors that should have been picked up. The ending was a little too vague. Like flash fiction, it was left open but it wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been.

That said, it’s my favourite story so far; because it’s contemporary crime, a mixture of description and dialogue, and set in my hometown!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I shall be back tomorrow with my review of Val McDermid’s ‘I’ve Seen That Movie Too’, the fourth story in this collection.


Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction CompetitionRONE 2015 Judge.

As well as a teacher of creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online, Morgen will be one of five tutors at the 2017 Crime & Publishment alongside crime authors Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

Morgen’s first love is writing and she is a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog,, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on TwitterFacebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.


If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Related articles:

*** Breaking news! My online creative writing courses are currently just £1 or $1-2 each! ***

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You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping Listvarious short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and for anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.

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Posted by on March 3, 2016 in writing


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