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COPENHAGEN NOIR
by Bo Tao Michaelis, ed.
Akashic, December 2011
254 pages
$15.95
ISBN: 1936070669


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

While the names and places captured in this short story collection penned by Danish authors may be unfamiliar, even strange, to American sensibilities, the themes captured in COPENHAGEN NOIR are anything but. Following on in the Akashic noir series, which began with Brooklyn and some forty books later, finds itself in Copenhagen, this newest collection of writing is dark and compelling. It's clear from this collection that the Scandinavians are outstanding readers (and writers).

Each story is, as the series title would suggest, very dark in its own way, but the universal themes and human frailty so perfectly captured within these stories will speak to anyone who loves the mystery genre. Strangely enough, most shine through with humanity in the darkest of circumstances, whether it's a fill-in father looking for his missing daughter, a thief helping a pregnant woman, or a scorned wife helping her husband's prostitute.

Many of the stories dig deep into human despair and come up with something remarkable, even if only to question their own terrible turn in life. Most of the stories reflect the darker side of the urban landscape. Where outsiders might see picturesque squares and historic charm, the Copenhagen of these stories is comparable to the mean streets of any contemporary American noir setting. Here Copenhagen is no different than Los Angeles or New York, with its criminal elements and ugly brutality.

Divided into three sections: (Men and) Women, Mammon, and Corpses, the divisions hardly matter. Each story within the collection is worth reading. Some are stunning gems, such as "The Booster Station," a story of two boys who find a dead woman, and "The Great Actor," where two old actors meet in a cab, and the past catches up in a sinister way. There are stories here for every taste and sensibility in the noir range, and it's unlikely any will disappoint.

Compiled and introduced brilliantly by editor Bo Tao Michaelis, COPENHAGEN NOIR is about the "meaninglessness, violence, and murder" of the city told in a way that makes clear these authors have something outstanding to say, even in the bleakest of situations.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, February 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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