A common trap of the themed anthology is the inclusion of subpar writing to flesh out the volume. Vancouver Noir, however, book number 90-something in Akashic's redoubtable regional noir series, generally keeps its quality as high as its characters' moral standards are low.
Don't expect to root for the everyman in the film noir tradition: most of Vancouver Noir's 14 stories are from the perspective of protagonists with broken moral compasses. In Dietrich Kalteis's "Bottom Dollar," an ex-con decides to enact revenge on the gangster who fired him. In S.G. Wong's "Survivors' Pension," an elderly Chinese Canadian woman supplements her pension by faking accidents for the insurance money. In R.M. Greenaway's "The Threshold," a photographer waits until he gets the perfect shot before calling 911 to report that he's happened upon a dying man. Co-starring in every story is the stratified, changed and still-changing titular city. A local grouses that Greektown has become Yuppietown. Laments another character: "Everyone in the city seems to have forgotten South Cambie exists." Another wonders: "What still remained after gentrification, real estate crises, countless waves of new arrivals?"
That's not a question applicable only to Vancouver, of course. In his introduction, editor and contributor Sam Wiebe describes Vancouver as "a city under siege by drugs, poverty, racism, colonialism, violence directed at women. In other words, a city like any other." True, but Vancouver Noir's frequent references to the water do earmark it as a city that offers a great place to dump a body. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer