Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors is an uneven yet entertaining collection of stories all penned by African-American authors, some well known, other fairly obscure.
Not all of these are "mystery" stories in the traditional sense. Some of the "mysteries" here cover issues as mundane as a missing dog. Others are "mysteries" mainly in a cultural context, as is the case with Walter Moseley's contribution, "Bombardier". It's all in all a very diverse collection that, in total, ought to have something among the 22 submissions that would appeal to virtually any reader.
If there can be said to be an underlying theme to these stories it would be, generally speaking, an examination of the underlying forces of society, relationships and personality that motivate one toward the life of crime. If that's the question, the fact is the answers-to the extent there really are any-are all over the board.
The writing throughout is universally good. The proofreading and editing, by Eleanor Taylor, is slipshod and uneven. One is left with the sense Ms Taylor didn't so much edit this collection as assemble it. While this is often a source of mild irritation it doesn't detract in a serious way from enjoying the book.
In the end one is not so much moved by the mysteries presented as by the wit, superstitions, mores, aphorisms, attitudes and-most keenly-the shared experiences of the authors, specifically as it relates to the minority experience in America.
All in all, a very good diversionary, beach type of read.