Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy, is a shining example of a themed crime anthology. Its 14 stories provide a glimpse into the city once known as “The Machine Shop of the World,” but which is now struggling with disappearing jobs, growing poverty, division, and racism. It’s a city Hennessy loves, for its “lack of pretension; its stubbornness and pride” but also fears that its “best and brightest will find somewhere else to shine” as Milwaukee struggles to find its path into the uncertain future of the 21st century.
Matthew J. Prigge’s melancholy and meaningful “3rd Street Waltz” is a tale about inner-city abandonment and neglect. The Princess, a once glamorous movie theater, is reduced to showing pornographic films, and as the story begins, the theater is set to close its doors forever. The ripe and moody atmosphere and the strong writing make for a compelling and relevant story. “Summerfest ’76” by Reed Farrel Coleman is a powerful tale of love, loss, and anti-Semitism. Jane Hamilton’s “Friendship” is a beautifully written story about friendship, betrayal, and justice (of a certain and very satisfying kind). “Mocking Season” by Christi Clancy charmingly, and with some surprise, plays on the psychology of the outsider with the added complexities of jealous neighbors and the use of chemical pesticides.
There are no duds in this anthology—every tale has something to say, and it’s said in an entertaining and surprising way. Milwaukee Noir is one of the better entries in Akashic Books’ Noir series.