The Poison Artist, Jonathan Moore
ISBN 978–0‑544–52056‑1, 288pp, $24.00
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
JEWISH NOIR, ed. Kenneth Wishnia
ISBN 978–1629631110, 448 pages, $17.95
There’s been a glut of Jewish-themed books lately, especially in YA, ones that seem to wear Jewish-ness as a trapping, as much an accessory as the novel having the love interest be a vampire, neither conscious of nor caring for the very real and living culture and traditions. So when I saw Jewish Noir,my first thought was all right, what the hell have I got to complain about now?
As it turns out, nothing. It’s a solid collection from a wide range of writers, most more-or-less writing from a uniquely Jewish perspective. Crime? Yeah, there’s a lot of crime, a lot of hard time and short luck all thematically enmeshed into Jewish roots. The particular focus of the collection, which despite my initial skepticism, I enjoyed, never felt unnecessary, but provided a commonality between the wildly different voices that flowed well throughout. Like most anthologies, a couple of the stories towards the middle felt like filler, but several — perhaps most notably in the first story in the collection, R.S. Brenner’s “Devil for a Witch”— ended on neatly executed little screwturn gut-punches, which is the kind of feeling I look for in a noir. Like the editor says, if you’re looking for the hardboiled, the rootless, the persecuted and the cornered, you don’t have to look much further than the Jews, so what better thematic match could there be? —RRS