Book Review of Old Wounds: A Nick Shelby Case and Other Crime Stories by Tom Batt

Old Wounds is a collection of fifteen short crime stories from dark detective noir to domestic murder. In this book you’ll find everything from stories set in Victorian London, 1940s Los Angeles, a dystopian future, and pretty much everything in between.

Batt is certainly inventive with his settings and characters, and you won’t find many similar stories in this collection of short stories. You’ll meet prostitutes, hired killers, detectives, scientists and drifters – certainly a cast of characters to keep you on your toes as you negotiate your way through these glimpses into a world of crime and deceit.

In the title story, ‘Old Wounds: A Nick Shelby Case’, private investigator Nick Shelby is struggling to move on from the abrupt and unexplained departure of Louise, his fiancée. When her family are informed of her death in Mexico, Nick is reluctantly engaged to find out what happened. The character is very much a Philip Marlowe type – a hard-boiled detective originating in Los Angeles – and the story features some nice details that fans of Raymond Chandler will appreciate. There are plenty of twists and turns in this case before it is solved.

There was another decent twist in Past Crimes, a crime investigation featuring time travel (I’ve only ever come across this idea once before, I think) and I enjoyed the futuristic dystopia presented in Birth Control.

On the whole, I enjoyed Batt’s portrayal of male characters. There are a whole range here, such a jilted lovers, detectives and sheriffs,, and hit men. However, I did find that many of his female characters were overly sexual; the exception being the rather unfortunate Mary in An Unexpected Encounter in Spitalfields, who finds herself making money as a prostitute after her husband is unable to find work. The husband reflects that it is ‘a surprise that she got any business at all due to her frumpy figure and haggard looks, but her prices were rather competitive. It’s easy to overlook missing teeth, unkempt hair and pocked skin at such a bargain.’ Well, thank you, George!

There are a lot of bodies in this book, and a lot of different ways of disposing of them. There is sex and drugs and rather a lot of violence. For this reason, it’s definitely not a gentle read, nor is it suitable for younger readers, although the fast-paced, dialogue-driven narratives would probably be enjoyed by many readers. I don’t like to be stereotypical, but in terms of guiding this book towards those who may enjoy it most, I’d guess that the target audience for this book would be males in their late teens and early twenties.

I received a copy of Tom’s book in exchange for my honest review. You can buy a copy on Amazon here and it is currently on sale for £3.99 on Kindle or £6.99 in paperback. You can discover more of Tom’s stories at

The image shows the front cover of Old Wounds: A Nick Shelby Case by Tom Batt.

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