Reviewed by author Nikki Dudley
In the introduction to Supernatural Noir, Datlow provides a definition from Paul Duncan’s book Noir Fiction, which says that noir is “used to describe any work, usually involving a crime – that is notably dark, brooding, cynical, complex and pessimistic.”
What we get in this collection of stories is just what the title suggests – the trademarks of noir intertwined with supernatural elements such as elves, ghouls, the devil, psychics, and magic. There’s plenty more too – much more than I can explain in this review. And plus, I wouldn’t want to ruin all of the surprises.
The narrators in the short stories range from tortured detectives, to hopeless nobodies, to a wandering vagrant, to an opportunist whore – each of them, long-embedded (or in rare cases, suddenly embedded) in the world of noir. The writing style is like the action – straight to the point and ruthless. The dialogue is smart and brooding. The twist being the appearance of the supernatural in the dark nihilistic world all the characters inhabit.
Some of my favourites include the brutal fabricated creature in The Dingus by Gregory Frost, the amorous ghoulish grave robber in Dead Sister by Joe R. Lansdale, and the mysterious ‘Dreamer’ in Nick Mamatas’s Dreamer of the Day. These three stories and a lot of the others epitomised the irony, the gruesome details, and the doom that the mixture of noir and the supernatural creates.
After all, what could make a dark, brooding and complex narrative even darker and more brooding? It appears this collection provides the answer. If you don’t like too many elves or magical beings with your noir, maybe give this a miss. But if you’re open to a great read with a lot of talented voices, with a warped take on noir, this is the collection for you.
Thanks so much to Ellen Datlow for the review copy of Supernatural Noir
Click to learn more about Nikki Dudley and her book Ellipsis.