Hong Kong Noir continues Akashic Books globe-trotting series of noir anthologies, taking readers on a trip to the noir side of Hong Kong this time. Hong Kong has a unique history as a British colony until 1997 when their lease expired and Hong Kong became part of China. Going from a capitalist hot spot to a communist region, no matter the guarantees of autonomy was a systemic shock and that transition features in several stories. As an international commercial center, it’s no surprise that sex workers feature in several stories as well. There are also ghosts that haunt the city, the people who live there, and many of the stories.
There are fourteen stories in Hong Kong Noir, a choice that may seem aggressive given the widely held belief that fourteen is unlucky, so much so hotels and apartment buildings skip the fourteenth floor. Given that there are fourteen stories, I was somewhat disappointed by how many stories featured sex workers or ghosts. I am sure Hong Kong is more diverse. There were a couple of stories where I wondered if they were a continuation of a previous story. I don’t mind ambiguous endings, but there were too many of them as well.
This is a rare disappointment for me. I almost always love the Akashic Noir releases. It makes me wonder how the authors described what they were looking for when they recruited writers to write stories for this edition. “We’re looking for noir stories about Hong Kong, past and present, you know, stories about ghosts, haunted neighborhoods, sex workers, and organized crime, that sort of story from the grim and sordid side of life.” Somehow there is a sameness to the stories that is surprising given the diversity of authors. It seems that must come from how they were recruited to write for the anthology.
Still, it is only disappointing relative to the high quality of the Akashic Noir series. It is still a good mystery anthology. I expect to like every book I read because I was drawn to them for a reason. There are still several good stories that drew me in. A couple were excellent, including the unluckily named “Fourteen.” I also thought “One Marriage, Two People” that gives us the stream of consciousness thoughts of a husband and wife who are very different, though I thought the husband was surprisingly two-dimensional. “The Quintessence of Dust” is chilling, with beautiful writing, “I couldn’t tell where the jet lag ended and the hangover began. They fused into each other like the stairs in one of those Escher prints where the only way is down.”
If you like mysteries and short stories and are curious about the world, Akashic Noir is a delight and you will enjoy Hong Kong Noir.
I received an e-galley of Hong Kong Noir from the publisher through Edelweiss.