The overall impression is that this anthology is great. I liked the atmosphere of all the stories and I appreciated the different way each author dealt with the noir element. There are a few authors that I didn't know and I'd like to keep track of them in the future. There were a few stories that, for style or plot, were closer to my personal taste, but I feel the overall quality was excellent. The writing was very good and each author showed its particular talent. It's a highly recommended read for those who appreciate a bit of mystery, deception, questionable characters and what leaves you wondering and scratching your head at the end of a story.
Keeping The Faith by 'Nathan Burgoine. 3.5*
Noir meets paranormal in a very interesting short story. The protagonist of the story is hired by an openly gay Catholic priest, Father Robert Bryce, to find the faith which was stolen from him. The protagonist doesn't give much information about himself: we know that he sees ghosts, that he's gay and that he's had a walk with the devil. The story is too short to develop the mystery part, but it's enough to convey its chilling atmosphere.
Patience, Colorado by Rob Byrnes. 4.5*
Conor Laughlin gets lost in Patience, Colorado, middle of nowhere. He checks in at a motel and spends a night at the bar of a bowling alley where he meets Taylor Harkness, the only gay boy in town. Taylor dreams of running away from the small town. All his hopes seem to gather in Conor and the box of money his boss keeps in his office. The atmosphere of the story is incredible, with its lonely and rainy nights. Patience seems a black hole from which nothing ever gets out, where everything is tainted with hopelessness and desperation. Unfortunately I can't tell more without spoiling it, so go, read it.
Mouse by Jeffrey Round. 5*
The stories of Colin and Jon, two brothers, are heartbraking behind a facade of normalcy. Colin is the older one, married, an ordinary life after a short period of rebellion. His brother Jon, four year younger, a small and sunny kid, is a drug addict. This short story is chilling in its quiet telling, as if it something uneventful were happening, but there's an impending sense of menace and tragedy, as the events that led to the brother's fate are explained.
Faithful by Michael Thomas Ford. 2*
This is just a matter of personal preference. I appreciated very much the subtle humor of the story and the atmosphere, but I think the fact that I knew I was reading a Gay&Lesbian anthology spoiled the twist at the end of the book. The sex was a bit too loud and the detached narration of the protagonist kept me a bit out of the story.
Spin Cycle by Greg Herren. 4.5*
In a post-Katrina New Orleand, the poor narrator has to face reconstruction and new neighbors that are a bit fixated with laundry. Sometimes an act of kindness turns into obsession. The narrator was so chatty that it was suspiscious. I felt the author was playing cat and mouse with me and it was very entertaining.
Murder on the Midway by Jeffrey Ricker. 4.5*
This was probably my favorite victim: a rentboy/blackmailer for charity. For me he was absolutely the protagonist of the story, much more than Sam Page, the private dick, his client, the wealthy Milo Leveque, and the neighbor Rick. I think this story would deserve a full book. There were so many things I wanted to know about all the protagonists. Unfortunately the length of the story detracted a bit from the investigation.
The Thin Blue Lines by Max Reynolds. 5*
An editor kills a writer who butchers language and has been harassing him for some time. He then has to dispose of the body. This story was funny, entertaining and clever. I really loved the acceleration the plot had at the end, when the editor learned how valuable his job is to solve his problem.
An Appetite for Warmth by Neil Plakcy. 5*
Forgive me the easy pun, but this story was chilling. I've read something else from the same author, something lighter and sunnier, and I am amazed at his ability to portray such a dark character. Sean is a young man trying to find something to warm him up: a body, a climate, a feeling. His restlessness comes in the way. The voice of the narrator was really hopeless and desperate. It really makes you think of how we are often our worst enemies.
Miss Trial by Adam McCabe. 4*
Logan lands the biggest case of his career, but something doesn't seem right. He can't trust almost anyone: not the suspect he's trying to discharge from the murder of his gay lover; not his lawyer who seems too intimate with him. And there's a blond attractive boy appearing in the strangest places. An enjoyable read.
Last Call by Mel Bossa. 4*
The Detour Club is a haven of corruption. Sugar is its bartender, who has everyone wrapped around his finger. He gives bits and pieces of himself away, but he has only himself in mind. Shield, the doorman, wants to save him and start a new life with him. It remains to be seen if Sugar wants to be saved and who is in a bad place. A story with a great atmosphere.
The Case of the Missing Bulldog by Josh Aterovis. 3*
Private dick gets entangled with his gorgeous 19-year-old client, who's suspected of the killing of his grandfather. The only problem is that there's no corpse and the young man seems to hold something back. It's a nice short story with a good build up.
Imago Blue by Felice Picano. 4*
This story has a lot of interesting elements: a sci-fi setting; amnesia; a re-birth in a different sexual gender; the re-building of all personal relationships; a mystery. I would have liked to stay a little bit more with Blue and his fiancé Bruno, but the story packed a lot of fascinating details in few pages.
The Cocktail Hour by John Morgan Wilson. 4.5*
Addiction takes many form. This is a dark story of a man who receives a call from a younger ex-lover and can't help meeting him. Jack, the older man, has no more dreams and no more hopes. He's holed up in a hotel contemplating his life, when Randy Devlin calls him. Randy had Jack arrested, it's not really clear why, but Jack has been able to make a change for the better and, although he's clearly not happy, he's at least sober. Randy reaches him and stirs affection and longing. The younger Randy is living with an old rich man. Jack sees the signs of something that unsettles him, but Randy is even more tempting than a shot of tequila. I liked the feeling of inevitable doom of the story and I appreciated that the author played with it openly.
Private Chick by Julie Smith. 4*
Diva Delish is a creature with many virtues and surprises. She's extremely funny and witty and larger than life. She's a bit exhausting too, so I found her entertaining for a short story, but I don't know if I'd be able to read a whole novel with her, but she's probably the character with the most distintive voice of the anthology. All the characters were awesome, from her cop friend to her dog Barkus. It was a pleasure to follow her around in her investigation.
Galley received via NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.