I am a long-time fan of the Noir series from Akashic Books and just finished their most recent release Mississippi Noir that came out earlier this month. Mississippi as a state is a fount of great literature, including some of my favorites like Eudora Welty and William Faulkner. It is also a state rich in the mystery genre with settings perfect for suspense. It’s not wonder, then, that this anthology is a standout in an excellent series.

Tom Franklin organized the stories in four sections, the first has stories of conquest and revenge. The second features wayward youth, the third is called Bloodlines with some of the most painful stories and the last section is called Skipping Town. The stories are often grim, tragic and heartbreaking, but not always. The last story, “Cheap Suitcase and a New Town” is even kind of hopeful…kind of.

Mississippi is a powerful presence in most of the stories, not just the landscape, but the grinding poverty and the pernicious racism are a backdrop to many of the stories.

I disliked one story, “Oxford Girl” by Megan Abbott. I would like to forget that story. It was, however, well-written. Like all the other stories, it was emotional powerful and wrenching. I disliked it on a deep level, in part because it reflects a truth about misogyny, about men who kill women simply because they feel that’s their right as men. I can’t deny the art, what I really hate is the reality it represents.

I loved “God’s Gonna Trouble the Waters” by Dominqua Dickey. It was fascinating, a story of multi-generational secrets and the power they have, but also a story of love and redemption. William Boyle’s “Most Things Haven’t Worked Out” broke my heart. “I got broken by being so close to kindness.” Is there a sadder sentence?

4pawsI loved Mississippi Noir and recommend it highly. It gives us entrée to the variety and vitality of Mississippi, not just from the dirt roads of entrenched poverty but also the wide streets of suburbia and middle class ennui. If there is a common element, it’s a directness, the simplicity of telling a story that we need to hear.

I received an e-galley of Mississippi Noir from the publisher via Edelweiss. Check out the Akashic Noir series at Akashic Books.