Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Rio Noir - Edited by Tony Bellotto - Not a great anthology, but a few very good stories

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I really thought I was going to enjoy Rio Noir.  I liked the idea of an anthology of noir stories set in the heart of Brazil.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines noir as "crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings."

I guess, for me, the characters weren't hard-boiled enough, or maybe they weren't cynical enough, or perhaps the bleak settings weren't sleazy enough. With a few notable exceptions, I just didn't enjoy this collection.

I tried to think of a reason I wasn't clicking with the stories.  As I was writing this review, I discovered the bulk of the stories contained in this collection were translated from Portuguese to English which may have contributed to my lack of enjoyment.  One thing I did find off-putting was how, nearly every story, ended abruptly without a satisfying conclusion.

Normally, with an anthology, I'll include notes about each story, but I'll just mention a few of the gems I discovered in the collection.

I did enjoy ARGENTINE TAXI by Arthur Dapieve.  It starts with an apparent suicide and is a solid, well-told story. "Fighting prostitution in this city is more or less like asking the scorpion not to sting the frog in the middle of a river.  It would be going against its nature."

BLIND SPOT by Victoria Saramago was a nice story with artful prose and the "discovery of a human finger wrapped in a piece of paper that had fallen out of a plastic bag."  However, like so many of the stories in this anthology the ending left me hanging.

Then there was THE WAIT by Flávio Carneiro.  A five-star story in a sub-par collection. Classic noir and the stage was set from the opening line, "It was an ordinary day, a Monday like any other, even the hangover was the same.  It was a little past noon and the sun seemed to flood its full intensity on my head as I entered the old building on Rua da Relação."

THE STORY OF GEORGES FULLAR by Raphael Montes was brilliantly told and totally engaging.  The story of an aging writer and a young man who wants to have his success someday.

If you decide to take a chance on this anthology, don't quit, all of the better stories seemed to come on the back end.  If you give up too soon, you'll miss them.

Rio Noir is published by Akashic Books and is available in paperback and e-book formats.

The editor, Tony Bellotto, is author of the best-selling Bellini mystery novels, which have been released as major feature films and translated widely.  He is also a guitarist and songwriter for the famed Brazilian rock band Titãs (The Titans), which has released twenty albums and sold over six million albums.  Bellotto also writes for the newspaper Globo and hosts a television show.

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