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by Ken Bruen, editor
Akashic Books, March 2006
250 pages
ISBN: 1888451920

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

DUBLIN NOIR is perhaps the best short story anthology I've read. So it seems churlish to start with a moan or three. But despite the quality of the stories, I found myself bemoaning the following . . .

There are only three Irish writers in the whole anthology. It's light on women writers -- only two are included, and neither of those are Irish. And the noir banner does mean that there's not a lot of light and shade in the anthology.

The Irish contributions are the ones I remember best. OK, yes, so I'd read Ken Bruen's shopping list, and your point is . . .? But Black Stuff is typical tight, punch in the stomach writing from yer man.

Equally as good is Eoin Colfer's Taking on PJ, a zingy mix of violence and black humour. You'll maybe know him as the man behind the Artemis Fowl series for teenagers. But on this showing I'd like to see him move into the adult arena as well.

Pat Mullan's Tribunal reads like the start of a novel -- I'd certainly want to read on, but it's problematic as a short story

The collection is sub-titled the Celtic Tiger vs the Ugly American, and yes, it's light on the former and heavy on the latter. A couple of the stories could have happened anywhere, and seemed shoe-horned into Dublin to make the link. Generally, though, it's a very strong anthology with hardly any weak links. Bruen, who edited the book, has gathered together some well-known faces, including Laura Lippman, Jim Fusilli and Gary Phillips.

Stories from a couple of new to me names -- two British writers -- stuck in my mind. John Rickards' Wish is a bizarre little tale told by a garda (policeman) where you're left wondering just what to believe, and in Kevin Wignall's The Death of Jeffers, a scholar at Trinity College gets an unexpected visitor.

As usual in anthologies, several stories seem very loosely related to crime fiction -- Sarah Weinman's Hen Night did what felt like a last-minute U-turn with burning rubber and screeching brakes to fit the criteria. And, incidentally, if you're writing from the point of view of a UK character, at least get someone English to check the accuracy of what you're writing.

And while we're on the subject, a note to Patrick J Lambe: Pissed in British and Irish English means drunk. I think what you're looking for is pissed off! I'm not sure if these are glitches that slipped past the editor, or whether they're down to an American publisher not being as fussy as they might be on regional accuracy.

I took this book with me on a weekend in Dublin and devoured it enthusiastically on the plane home. I'm just glad that I didn't get to visit one or two of the parts of the city featured in DUBLIN NOIR!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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