RogerBW's Blog

Belfast Noir, ed. Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville 08 March 2023

2014 crime anthology, stories set in Belfast.

They don't seem particularly noir to me, but perhaps I have unreasonable expectations. Noir to me means: the authorities may be just as corrupt as the criminals, or at least as unlikely to help, but one hero has honour and sticks by it in the face of all temptation. Which may not help him succeed, but at least he can live with himself knowing he's done the right thing.

The editors seem happy to use "noir" simply to mean "everything is horrible".

"The Undertaking" (Ryan McGilloway): you don't say no to the IRA, even when they want to use your hearse for smuggling weapons.

"Poison" (Lucy Caldwell): ghastly schoolgirls and one of their teachers who's no great thing himself.

"Wet with Rain" (Lee Child): covert operations with an unconvincing cover, and if you don't see the twist coming I don't want you behind my bar.

"Taking It Serious" (Ruth Dudley Edwards): obsessive kid gets more so, and nobody with a brain to spot it knows him.

"Ligature" (Gerard Brennan): depression among prison inmates.

"Belfast Punk REP" (Glenn Patterson): reporter digs into a long-forgotten story, lots of implication and very little said.

"The Reservoir" (Ian McDonald): turning up at the daughter's wedding after everyone thought he was dead. A welcome hint of something beyond the mundane, the only story in this collection to go there.

"The Grey" (Steve Cavanagh): dodgy barrister, dodgy petty criminal, a flash of honour from dishonourable men.

"Rosie Grant's Finger" (Claire McGowan): young private eye, a double kidnapping, everyone lies.

"Out of Time" (Sam Millar): private eye owes his life to a prostitute who takes endless advantage of him.

"Die Like a Rat" (Garbhan Downey): murder and corruption, and the reporter-narrator is happy to dive in.

"Corpse Flowers" (Eoin McNamee): scenes from a murder investigation.

"Pure Game" (Arlene Hunt): an unusual infiltration.

"The Reveller" (Alex Barclay): killing the killer.

The only ones of these that really worked for me were the Cavanagh and the Millar, maybe the McGowan and the Hunt, which isn't a great hit rate. If I'd been in the mood for stories in which everyone and everything is horrible, I'd probably have enjoyed it more.

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