Recommended Reading: “Columbus Noir” — A look at Ohio’s dark side

Do you enjoy reading tales of desire, desperation and bad decisions?

If so, I highly recommend “Columbus Noir,” a crime fiction anthology edited by mystery writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins. The stories all are set in Ohio’s capital city, so there is added interest for Ohioans, but the stories are universal and ought to appeal to anyone, even if they have never set foot in the Buckeye State. Welsh-Huggins did an excellent job of rounding up writers who know how to delve into the depth of the human soul.

I have not yet read all the stories in this book, because I tend to read anthologies over time, but I have read enough to feel my purchase was well rewarded.

If you enjoy reading James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy et al, you will not be disappointed by this book. These stories are on the dark side, often featuring bad people doing bad things to other bad people.

Standout stories, for me, are: “Gun People,” by Kristen Lepionka (check out her Roxane Weary novels, they are excellent); “The Satin Fox,” by the amazing Robin Yocum; “Going Places,” by Welsh-Huggins (try his Andy Hayes detective novels) and “An Agreeable Wife for a Suitable Husband,” by Mercedes King. This is the first story I have read from King, and I will be looking for more. One of the great things about anthologies is the opportunity to discover more writers, right?

The book contains 14 stories, all set in specific Columbus neighborhoods and all aiming for that noir sensibility — dark, gloomy and delicious.

“Columbus Noir” is part of an Akashic Books series of noir tales grouped by location, so odds are there is a book set near you — but if the book I bought is an indication, the stories are going to be fine whether you have a connection to a particular city or not. Learning the gritty details of The Short North or spotting mentions of familiar locations in German Village is a bonus, of course, but the stories appeal even if you don’t care about such things.

This book offers twists, wrong turns, deceptions and plenty of glimpses into dark souls. I highly recommend it. And because I enjoy vacationing in New England, I plan to find some more Akashic noir anthologies to dive into. I’m certain I recall some excellent places to dump a body in Cape Cod …

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