Lagos Noir is the noir armchair traveler’s guide to Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria and in Africa. I have been pronounced it wrong my entire life, it’s not a homonym for the Spanish lake, but for the Danish toy that 10 million parents have stepped on in the middle of the night. Speaking of the middle of the night, there is far more danger in the dark in Lagos than stray pieces of pointy plastic.

There are thirteen stories in Lagos Noir that are presented in three sections. The first is “Cops & Robbers” and the stories are far from the traditional procedurals. Nnedi Okorafor’s “Showlogo” is masterful magic realism and Jude Dibia’s “What They Did That Night” captures the futility of honesty in a corrupt system. The next section, “In a Family Way” gets at the more personal noir, the family conflicts and struggles. “Joy” by Wale Lawal sets two women against each other in one house. The last section is “Arrivals and Departures” and has Nigerians interacting with refugees from Liberia and with White ex-pats, which prompts the question, are ex-pats just privileged refugees? Leye Adenle’s “Uncle Sam” is a brilliant play on the Nigerian email scam.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lagos Noir and think editor Chris Abani did a masterful job of collecting writers and stories for this edition. I am glad Abani stuck to short stories. When editors add poetry and drama, I get this feeling that they think noir is just a bit downmarket. I feel no shame for my love of noir or of genre fiction and while I can understand the desire to show the noir sensibility is other kinds of writing, I love it when editors fully embrace the sublime art of the short story.

I defy anyone to read Chika Unigwe’s “Heaven’s Gate” or Onyinye Ihezukwu’s “For Baby, For Three” without being shaken to the core. These are powerful and moving stories of family and society trying to survive where the margin for error is narrow and unforgiving. It’s harrowing and painful and reminds us how unjust the world can be. That is what literature is supposed to do.

Lagos Noir will be released June 5th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.

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