Reviewed by Morgan Hua
Streets of Shadows has twenty-one new stories by veteran writers. The theme of this collection is supernatural noir. The book was originally a Kickstarter project, and it is now available from Amazon.
In my mind, noir means a specific look and feel: rain-slicked streets, dark alleyways, and down-and-out detectives who don’t know who to trust. Most of the stories in this collection got the atmosphere right and did some amazing world building, but only a few were full-fledged stories. A fair number felt like vignettes or the opening chapter of a novel. Some tighter editing might have helped too, as I found a handful of typos that made me stumble through some of the stories.
Stories of note in order of appearance:
“A Game of Cards” by A. C. Wise. A former female boxer, now bouncer, solves the mystery of two murders in Las Vegas. I liked the card mythos and Lady Luck, which reminded me of Tim Powers’s Last Call. This story did feel like the beginning of a longer work.
“Shooting Aphrodite” by Gary Kloster. A hooker is paid to shoot up with god blood before servicing a customer. And bad things happen.
“Morrigan’s Girls” by Gerard Brennan. A modern, Irish, mythological tale of Morrigan, a madam of brothels, looking for two of her working girls. The sense of place is quite strong in this story: old pubs, seedy backroom dogfights, and trashed, expensive hotels.
“The Large Man” by Paul Tremblay. A Problem Solver is sent to find the Large Man. The city is controlled by an underbelly of unseen magical powers. Birds, rats, and other groups vie for control of the city and the Problem Solver is pulled into a plot of wheels within wheels.
“Unfilial Child” by Laurie Tom. June visits her grandmother in Chinatown and discovers the secret behind her family history. This story lacks the dark atmosphere, but the core of the story is noir.
“Street Worm” by Nisi Shawl. A runaway kid sees ominous, ghostly worms nesting on blighted buildings. She finds she’s not the only one with powers. Her sense of mistrust and fear drives this story.
“Hand Fast” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A woman unravels the mystery of the disappearance of her partner and lover. It also involves a pair of magic guns. In some of the other stories, the crime is just a McGuffin for the detective to follow. This is one of the few stories where everything was tightly integrated.
“Beware of Dog” by Kevin J. Anderson. Zombie detective, Dan Shamble, solves the mystery of a bar disturbance and missing dog. The story was amusing, but not laugh out loud humorous. I loved the various references to pop culture such as Dirty Harry, Cruella De Vil, Tasmanian Devil, etc. The world is sort of a mix between Toon Town and The Munsters.
“Cold Fear” by Lucien Soulban. A ghost detective looks into his own death even though he’s told not to do so. I loved the language used in this story; it drops you right into the 1930s.
“Best Served Cold” by Seanan McGuire. Detective Silva is hired by the Winter Queen to find a missing boy toy and some jewels. I liked the dialog and interaction between Silva and the people she talks with.
“Toby’s Closet” by Jonathan Maberry. Detective Sam Hunter, who has a keen sense of smell, solves a child abuse mystery. Sam’s observations and inner dialog are very amusing and very hard-boiled. One of the better stories.
As you can tell, a fair portion of the stories had female protagonists, which is unusual. None of the stories were mysteries in the classical sense, most were character stories with solid world building and a dark crime that was easily solved. Read this anthology for the noir atmosphere and tough characters.
MORGAN HUA graduated from both Clarion West and Odyssey Writers Workshops. He has written non-fiction articles and reviews for genre magazines and spends his leisure time designing and GMing tabletop RPGs for fun. When not creating the future at startup tech companies in Silicon Valley, he writes about book dragons, dystopian societies, and uncomfortable things that go bump in the night.