Alternative Ulster Noir, edited by Simon Maltman*

Rating: 5 out of 5.

* With stories by

  • Colin Bateman
  • Stuart Neville
  • Sharon Dempsey
  • Gerard Brennan
  • Kelly Creighton
  • James Murphy
  • Simon Maltman

Call me perverse (oh yes, you already did…) but I found this collection of crime stories immensely entertaining.  They’re set in Ireland (a country I don’t know) and they’re set (in a way) to music (mostly tracks I don’t know).  But never mind that, they all WORK!  Crime stories always ask questions about the human mind, about transgression, about responsibility, and I love the questions that these ones ask:

  • Do you really know your friends?  Who’s the tough one really?
  • Your heroes – are they really what you thought?
  • Can the criminal justice system actually change anyone?
  • What would you do if you came across a murder and it looked terribly much as if you’d done it?
  • What’s real? Do you want to know? Could you go on living if you did?
  • So you just adore crime, hey?  How about when it comes to YOU?
  • What does it feel like when the worm turns?

I tried to pick a favorite one – that’s what one’s supposed to do when reviewing an anthology I think.  It’s hard.  The most straightforwardly entertaining was by Simon Maltman – I’m a great one for taking guided tours on city-breaks and I’ll never feel quite the same about them ever again.  Perhaps the cleverest and the most original (though they were all pretty clever and pretty original) was by Gerrard Brennan.  But the one that resonated most deeply, now, just now, was the final one.  Oh so bitter, so true, so cathartic.  I gazed into the dark water of this story and I hated myself, but yes, I wanted to throw that chain. I’m hoping this mood will pass.  The one I wanted to  like best was the first one.  I don’t want to be Victor. I want to be Imelda. And just like her, I want to surprise you.

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