Fans of classic crime fiction will be delighted to find this new Ostara imprint making available famous and less famous tales now hard to find, even in your favourite second-hand bookstores. Esteemed crime writer and editor Mike Ripley has gathered his first clutch into a ‘Top Notch Thrillers’ series and among them is the first of three volumes of long short stories by the Edgar Award winning Frank McAuliffe. This collection was first brought together in 1965, though the stories date from 1939 to 1945, the Second World War, and are redolent with the gallows humour and amoral attitudes imbued in men who had risen from their armchairs (had they ever owned an armchair) to face life as it was.

Each tale concerns the outrageous exploits of hired killer, conman and master of disguise, Augustus Mandrell (though was that his real name – who can tell?) who narrates his extraordinary adventures with dry wit and laconic lack of empathy. You’re not meant to take these stories seriously (though the Edgar Awards panel did, remember) but with a generous pinch of salt. Salt adds flavour and piquancy to life, and if there’s one thing these tales most certainly have, it’s a piquant flavour. Welcome back, Augustus – I hope you don’t call on me.

Of All The Bloody Cheek

Frank McAuliffe

Ostara paperback, £10.99, 978-1-9619-35-7

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