By Merle Eisman Carrus
Jewish Book Council
August 22, 2022
Jewish Noir II: Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds, as the title suggests, is the second book of Jewish Noir mystery stories which the definition of noir tells us is “a genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity.”
Short stories are in a category all their own. In each of these short stories the author needs to set the scene, build suspense and deliver a satisfying conclusion for their characters. Each of the authors in this collection do that with integrity, sharing a moral and making their point cohesively.
This is an anthology of short stories by Jewish and non-Jewish literary and genre mystery authors. Divided into sections that are grouped by headings of Legacies, the American Splendor, the Scattered and Dispersed and A Shandeh Far Di Goyim (You Shame Us in Front of the World) along with others. This book is a follow up to the first iteration, Jewish Noir published in 2015.
In each section there are a variety of stories. There are stories of crime, The Cost of Something Priceless by Elizabeth Zelvin about a Jewish woman who has inherited a beautiful priceless stolen necklace passed down through family for generations. She married a non Jewish man in the 1950s against wishes of both their families. When her husband starts to show his true colors, antisemitism is revealed. He tries to take her inheritance; she takes matters into her own hands.
The Black and White Cookie written by Jeff Markowitz is a story about a boy who thinks the world of his father and finds out years later what happened the day his father stopped coming home after work. This is a story that is set during the civil rights movement.
There are the stories that use dark humor, Wishboned by Jill D Block, explores the power of wishes when two grandmothers’ fighting over their first grandson reaches a climax on the day of his Bar Mitzvah. Using the theme of the exploitation of a child’s Bar Mitzvah to show the family’s wealth there are some humorous moments when you recognize the many Bar Mitzvah parties you have attended. The over the top party and the rival grandmothers, vying for their grandchild’s affection.
Joy Mahabir writes about an abusive relationship in her story, Datura. About a young girl who is living in an abusive relationship until she finds a way to leave. She will try to go home to her mothe in Trinidad. Her parents had escaped there from Germany in 1939. She had come to America to marry the right man, but now she sees her mistake. She finally is ready to end the horrific marriage.
Then there are stories that just seem dark like the short story by Zoe Quinton entitled, Crossover. The plot is about a young woman going to the mikvah for her conversion meets with tragedy and the look back at why it happened. The topic of intermarriage and familes not wanting an intermarraige to occur and not being welcoming to the new bride.
The foreword of this book is cleverly written by the famed mystery writer, Lawrence Block, who states it perfectly, “Jewish Noir II, a rich collection of wonderful tales wonderfully told.”
Merle Eisman Carrus resides in New Hampshire and writes book reviews for the NH Jewish Reporter newspaper. She is a graduate of Emerson College and received her Masters of Jewish Studies from Hebrew College. She blogs her book reviews at biteofthebookworm@ blogspot. com