And beat me with a hurley if this is not the darkest, bloodiest and most intense collection of noir crime fiction on the market. I figured that for raw tales of treachery, deceit, and pure evil, who better than Ken Bruen to select those best told in unadorned, unembellished, stripped down prose; a staccato of nineteen bleak episodes packed between the covers, penned by an eclectic and talented group of writers from both sides of the Atlantic?
There are too many gems here to pick the favorites, but Bruen's anthology is fast out of the gate with Eoin Colfer's "Taking on PJ," a darkly humorous encounter between of a couple of low-grade criminals and a notorious mob leg-breaker, finishing strong with Craig McDonald's double-twisted "Rope-A-Dope," a fiendish tale of sex and murder. In between, don't even bother to try and count the bodies as they pile up - gristle and gore are as common in this collection as Jamison's and Guinness. Even the women get into the violence with a pair of crazed blockbusters from Laura Lipman's "The Honor Bar," and Sarah Weinman's "Hen Night." An interesting sidebar: one of the most furious paced and engaging novels I've read was Duane Swierczynski's "The Blonde," opening with the unforgettable "I've poisoned your drink." Here, Swierczynski (who's decidedly not Irish but can still write with the best of them) serves up "Lonely and Gone" here - a neat little nugget that was clearly the inspiration for the white-knuckled "Blonde." Pat Mullen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Ray Banks, Olin Steinhauser - they're all here - plus an early story from Charlie Stella, a terrific but unfairly under-read author of great crime fiction like "Shakedown," "Cheapskates," "Johnny Porno," and more.
In short, "Dublin Noir" is a gritty and gripping selection of Ireland's darker prose, a mighty example of an eclectic collection of short story masters practicing the seedier side of their trade.