Houston Noir is a great collection of fourteen noir mysteries in the always reliable, always intriguing Akashic Noir series. This collection was edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda who did a bang-up job of selecting writers and encouraging them to great noir. In fact, her selections were so good, I wish she would have included one of her own.

The anthology is organized by realtor-speak, neighborhoods that suit a certain description. These include Desirable Locations with Private Security; Peaceful Hamlets, Great for Families; Minutes from Downtown and Nightlife; and Up and Coming Areas, Newly Revitalized. What a great organizing structure.

The stories range from family dramas, love, divorce, and betrayal to crime and policing, drugs, trafficking, and serial murder. All the fun stuff of noir stories. Some, like Jamie’s Mother and Where the Ends Meet, will break your heart. On the other hand, I fell in love with Railway Track and would love to see Mona Naeem become a series detective. She may have started off on the wrong track, but she sure brought her case home and she was not stupid about it.

Xitlali Zaragoza, Curandera was another heartbreaker. A waitress by day, a curandera by night, Xitlali is a super-heroic woman fighting demons though she is exhausted. There is a tremendous sentence in it describing how those who work for the wealthy live in a nearby neighborhood. “They live close enough to get to work, but far enough for those who benefit from their work to feel safe.” American in a nutshell.

I love the Akashic Noir anthologies. I like armchair travel and this is travel to the other side of town, perhaps less picturesque, but always more interesting. Most of the anthologies are good. Houston Noir is great. I think because there is no effort to “elevate” noir. Zepeda doesn’t try to prove anything about herself in making her choices. She just chose great writers and challenged them to write great noir, and they did.

Houston Noir will be out on May 7th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.