Mickey Finn Vol. 1: 21st Century Noir, edited by Michael Bracken, is a dark read as one would expect. After all, as the title makes abundantly clear, this is an anthology of noir style short stories so one does not expect sweetness and light with sunshine and flowers with flying unicorns and rainbow kisses. That being said, some of these stories are very dark and disturbing. The kind of tales where you finish the story and you need to take a break for awhile before getting back to the read.
After a very short introduction by Editor Michael Bracken, Ben Vincent opens things up with “Reflections of the Past.” Greg is out of jail and back in his childhood home. The house is paid for and it makes sense for Greg to live there with his mom spending her last days in a nursing home. Being back in the house is a testimony to his failures as well as a chance for a fresh start. It also made it easy for Monica Hicks to find him. It also makes it easy for the local cops.
Next up is “Getting Violated” by David Haggerty where Rolls Royce has yet to make it out of his cell and that has caused issues. The assembly line system to feed the inmates is going to need to find a new cog as Ritchie, aka Rolls Royce, is very much dead in his cell. Not only is there a mess to clean up, his fellow trustee, Andrew Viggoth, is an easy fall guy for the murder.
He's on the hunt for a scumbag that is known as “Little Johnny.” It is professional as well as deeply personal. The hunt has led him to a really bad motel in a very bad place. More than one horror lurks in the shadows outside and as well as inside the building in “Motel at the End of the World: 3 a.m.” by Trey A. Barker.
The job had some question marks, but Mathew was desperate. So, the ex-con took the gig in “One Way or the Other” by J. L. Abramo. Simon and Amanda had a fairly decent plan and the pay was decent. Not that those who are about to be homeless, which would result in an automatic return to prison, have very many options.
Somewhere a little north of Martinsville, he knew for sure they had a tail in “The Mailman” by Andrew Welsh-Huggins. The woman and her child were supposed to bring nothing personal with them. He already, knew they had blown that when the daughter brought a stuffed animal. He had checked her purse, but apparently Mom brought her cell phone. Now they have a tail and that creates multiple problems.
“Red Nocturne” by Anna Aptaker features a man facing a hard choice. Do his job as a cop and arrest her for murder or run away with her. He is head over heels in love with a killer.
Fleeing to the ledge on the outside of the building was not the brightest decision he ever made in “Better Not Look Down” by Josh Pachter. He panicked and now he is five floors above the street on a narrow ledge with cops closing in from the left and the right. How he got to this predicament is told by way of multiple flash backs.
Editor Michael Bracken is up next with his tale, “Final Reunion.” It has been quite a few years, but Mertz, Texas, looks pretty much the same to Gavin Wilcox as he rolls into town. Mom is less than thrilled to see him, but will feed him and let him sleep at the old house. He is in town to do a job and then he can be gone again. Mon is not the only one that wants him to go away.
When Connie loses it, as she has every so often since she was eight, the outcome for others is never good. In “Riptish Reds” by Joseph S. Walker, she is an adult, on parole, and doing her best not to unleash her rage on others when provoked. Some folks seem oblivious to her struggle and seem determined to flip her switch.
He knows how to shake money loose from folks in Lincoln City, Oregon. He can find you a high stakes companion for a fun time. He can hook you up with a serious card game for high stakes if you are interested. If you want the combo of the female companion and the card game, that is even better in “Sneaker Wave” by David H. Hendrickson.
Paula is drunk. That is a frequent occurrence and one of several frustrations for Davis. In 'Rough Justice” by Steve Rasnic Tem, Davis needs a break. Good thing his drug dealer is on the way as they have business to conduct.
A visit to the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville is never fun. It certainly is not in July 2018 in “Hard Luck Case” by James. A. Hearne. Seeing Robert Earl Stone, aka “Bobby,” on his birthday is always very hard. He made a promise to Alex Stone and he knows he failed his friend or his friend’s son would not be in prison.
Eddie has tracked down, Ray, his brother, as “Second Chance” by Barb Goffman begins. Separated in the foster care system many years ago, Eddie had a far better situation. Now he wants to make things better for Ray.
It has been a long time since Bobby Lyon was a Hollywood star. The former action hero is seen as a joke by many. He is seen as a target to rip off by others. That includes the two home invaders in “Clickbait” by Mark. R. Kehl.
Mick does not know the latest arrival at the club. But, he is sure the guy is trouble in “Kicks” by Steve Liskow. He isn't the only one concerned about the guy. The stranger also seems to have an unhealthy interest in the female dancer everyone knows as Baby Blue.
The sushi is always good and he likes the place in “Killer Sushi” by Stacy Woodson. He can vent and enjoy the food at the same time as can his military buddies. It is not like they have a lot of options in Fayetteville, North Caroline and the beer is good.
Being in a psychiatric place is not good in “Blood Brothers” by Mikal Trimm. Dr. Kerchoff is sort of like somebody’s Mom, but does not really understand where he is coming from on anything. At least Shane, his best friend, comes by on a fairly regular schedule. So too does one of the orderlies, but that late night visit is not one anyone wants.
Hope Hall is a crummy place, but it is a free place to live in “Rent Due” by Alan Orloff. The landlady, Lana Coreen, lets him live there rent free in exchange for doing an occasional odd job. Arno Woodley has a less than stellar background so Lana is sure he can do the job no problem.
He did the job and now Mr. Berry wants him to hide out at a certain place. He does so in “Last Exit Before Toll” by Hugh Lessig. Hiding out works great if no one knows where you are. Mr. Berry knows and he isn't the only one.
The family is on the run and the little girl is growing up too fast in “We Live Here” by Jarrett Kaufman. They are on the run for a very good reason. Now they have been found. This story has an ending I never saw coming and packs a powerful punch. It also the final story in this well-done anthology.
Author bios and then short previews of Rattlesnake Rodeo by Nick Kolakowski, Don't Shoot the Drummer by Jonathan Brown, and Below the Line by Steve Jankowski complete the eBook.
A dark and occasionally disturbing read, Mickey Finn Vol. 1: 21st Century Noir, edited by Michael Bracken, is not for all readers. These tales are very dark ones, as expected, and feature characters that are living on the edge in many different ways. A good read that showcases a number of talented crime fiction writers, it leaves the reader shaken and stirred.
Mickey Finn Vol. 1: 21st Century Noir
Editor Michael Bracken
Down & Out Books
Book (also available in paperback)
I picked this up back in December 2020 using funds in my Amazon Associate account.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2021