Monday, May 30, 2016


This 2016 Anthony Award-nominated short story collection by Christopher Irvin focuses mainly on ordinary individuals that many people almost never notice, the disenfranchised people who live quietly on society's borders: garbage men, cleaning ladies, immigrants, and returning war veterans, factory workers. And rather than the standard crime stories that most people expect, many of these stories and characters mostly exist on the fringes of crime, sometimes before or after major violence. And Irvin, as with his novella Federales, the brooding Mexico-set noir I read earlier this year, shows a real sensitivity to character as he sketches (in only a few pages) people that feel totally real.

I appreciate that Irvin respects the reader's intelligence, never spoon-feeding or spelling everything out for you. All the stories have a "lived-in" feel, as if they exist in a bigger world beyond each tale, as if there's a novel or two lurking before or after the story takes place. This is what some people dislike about short stories, but it's what has always attracted me to them. I wouldn't mind if Irvin returned to any of these characters and fleshed them out even more in other books. And although each story feels like a part of a bigger narrative, they never feel incomplete.

Standout tales include: "Blind Spot," "Bitter Work," "Lupe's Lemon Elixir," and "Napoleon of the North End."


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