The big city has no lock on misery in these 16 portraits of dark doings in the Deep South.
Some people’s expectations are just plain unrealistic. Like Glen, who wants her boyfriend to stop chucking cinder blocks off the overpass in Jamie Paige’s “Boys and Girl Games Like Coupling.” Or Erin, who thinks she can get her ex-husband to round up her self-destructive father for transplant surgery in Robert Busby’s “Anglers of the Keep.” Or Cissy, who hopes her baby’s daddy will stop kidnapping the child in Dominiqua Dickey’s “God’s Gonna Trouble the Water.” Or Betsy, who keeps grudges forever in Chris Offutt’s “Cheap Suitcase and a New Town.” In Mary Miller’s “Uphill,” the unnamed heroine knows her life won’t change but thinks it isn’t really her life anyway. Even sadder may be the folks who do try to change their lives, like William Boyle’s hero in “Most Things Haven’t Worked Out” or the petty drug dealer in Jimmy Cajoleas’s “Lord of Madison County.” There’s the usual crew who suffer for love, like Jada in RaShell R. Smith-Spears’s “Losing her Religion” or the eponymous “Oxford Girl” in Megan Abbott’s grim, predictable tale. There are misfits like mute Hero in Michael Farris Smith’s “Hero” and Yizhak Cohen in Andrew Paul’s “Moonface.” And every now and again, there’s a lucky soul who does manage to triumph over the trouble she gets herself into, like Anna in John M. Floyd’s “Pit Stop.”
On the whole, this latest entry in the long-running Akashic Noir series presents tale after tale of people who can’t get out of their own ways.