Sixteen shades of noir, all interesting, some compelling.
Three of Child’s contributors—Ken Bruen, Allison Brennan and Duane Swierczynski—are seasoned pros, but the collection’s gems come from the 13 members of the younger set. Derek Nikitas’s “Runaway,” for instance, is a superbly ambiguous chiller about an adolescent girl who may or may not be a real runaway, or for that matter real. In Toni McGee Causey’s artfully composed “A Failure to Communicate” introduces the indomitable and irresistible Bobbie Faye Sumrall, a steel magnolia whose steel will cause three lowlifes to rue the day they took her hostage. “Perfect Gentleman” by Brett Battles and “Bottom Deal” by Robert Gregory Browne are both lean and taut, expertly crafted in the good old hard-boiled tradition. In Marc Lecard’s sly “Teardown,” a hapless loser arrives in the wrong place at what turns out to be exactly the right time. Gregg Olson’s autobiographical “Crime of My Life” features a surprise ending that actually surprises. The quality is less consistent among the other entries, but, remarkably for a collection this ample, there’s no sign of a clinker.
An anthology so worthwhile that it comes within an eyelash of deserving the hyperbole Child (Bad Luck and Trouble, 2007, etc.) heaps on it in his introduction.