New Orleans Noir is a collection of mystery short stories situated in New Orleans. Julie Smith divided the collection into stories before and after Katrina, that cataclysmic flood that changed the city forever. Editor Julie Smith did an excellent job, finding stories with a strong sense of place.
I am forever a fan of the Akashic Noir series. It combines so many things I love, good writing, mysteries, short stories, and armchair travel—and does it so well. It is intriguing and illuminating to see the anti-visitor’s bureau side of these cities that Akashic takes us to. I am sure tourism offices around the world dread publications that feature their city, but they should not. People go to interesting places, not showplaces.
I think Julie Smith did an excellent job selecting the stories for this edition. Patty Friedmann’s Two-Story Brick Houses is among one of the most chilling and disturbing stories I have read. It’s a simple story with a simple crime, a small crime actually, but one with profound consequence. I had to set the book aside for a day to recover from the cruelty of that story.
Nearly every story was excellent. Some were triumphant such as Julie Smith’s Loot. Others will break your heart, crush it on the ground, and stomp it to pieces such as Ace Atkins’ Angola South. There was only one story I flat out disliked, Schevoski by Olympia Vernon, a story I ended up reading three times to see if I could figure out why it was written. It seems more like a fragment than a complete story, like an excerpt that is too short to give context.
This is the second time I have read New Orleans Noir. I read it back in 2007 when it first came out. I have two rows of Akashic Noir books that I reach back into from time to time. One of the great things about short stories is that they can be reread. Of course, when I have a Want to Read list of several hundred books and I still go back and re-read something, that should tell you how much I enjoyed it the first and the second time.