Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Tampa Bay Noir - Various Authors

I have been reading the Akashic “Noir Series” books since 2010 and, at this point, I’ve lost track of exactly how many of the short story collections I’ve read and reviewed, but it’s definitely well over a dozen of them, all told. As their titles indicate, each of the books is a collection of crime stories focused on one city or geographical area (the one exception I’ve read is titled Prison Noir). I’ve enjoyed each of the books, but I’m still not sure which type I enjoy most, the ones set in places I’m well-familiar with, or those set in locations I know I will never be able to visit for myself. Houston Noir, Lone Star Noir, and Mississippi Noir are collections set in neighborhoods and cities I know well. Providence Noir, Chicago Noir, Santa Cruz Noir, Baghdad Noir, Manila Noir, Long Island Noir, Buffalo Noir, and Belfast Noir, not so much. And I enjoyed all of them. 

 That brings me to Tampa Bay Noir, a 2020 collection edited by Colette Bancroft, who also contributed one of my favorites of the fifteen stories in the book. This collection includes stories by several well-known authors such as Michael Connelly, Lisa Unger, and Ace Atkins, among others. Connelly’s story even revolves around his much beloved LA police detective character Harry Bosch, something sure to please Bosch fans everywhere. All of the books in the collection (and there are something like 107 of them now with another six already announced) divide the stories into four distinct sections. The four sections of Tampa Bay Noir are: “Suburb Sinister,” “Blood in the Water,” “Grifter’s Paradise,” and “Family Secrets,” with the stories within each section falling into those specific themes. 

 My personal favorites include Lori Roy’s “Chum in the Water,” a story about a rather naïve man who borrows money from the wrong old man while, at the same time, placing his complete trust in a young woman who is not at all the innocent young thing he sees when she smiles at him. Another favorite is Ace Atkins’s “Tall, Dark, and Handsome,” which is a role reversal of what happens in the Lori Roy’s story. This time, it’s a younger woman who misplaces her trust in an older man – right up until she’s had enough. 

But it’s the stories in the “Family Secrets” section of Tampa Bay Noir that appeal to me most, particularly the ones by Yuly Restrepo Garcés, Eliot Schrefer, and Colette Bancroft (left). For the most part, each of these stories takes place behind closed doors and doesn’t involve the kind of spectacular crime featured in some of the other stories in the book, but they are every bit as dark, maybe even darker, than those others. There are criminals, and there are victims, in each of these families, and some of them are even punished for what they are doing. 

Bottom Line: Tampa Bay Noir is a strong addition to the Akashic Books noir short story collections. Its fifteen stories are largely atmospheric and dark, exactly what fans hope for when they pick up a new book in the series. Too, this one would be a great introduction to the books for those who are yet to discover them.

(A search on "Akashic Books" in the search box at the top of this page will yield reviews of several other books in the series.)

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