“Tampa Bay Noir” edited by Colette Bancroft; various authors; Akashic (296 pages, $15.95)
This lively collection of superior short stories follows a tradition that publisher Akashic started in 2004 — use the background of myriad cities for tales by well-known and emerging authors. The result, as “Tampa Bay Noir” shows, is an often perceptive look at the region.
In her introduction, Colette Bancroft, the book editor at the Tampa Bay Times, explains why this Florida Gulf Coast region lends itself to mystery fiction. “Ask most people what the Tampa Bay area is famous for, and they might mention sparkling beaches and sleek urban centers and contented retirees strolling the golf courses year-round. But it’s always had a dark side. Just look at its signature event: a giant pirate parade. Not only does Gasparilla honor the buccaneer traditions of theft, debauchery, and violence; its namesake pirate captain, José Gaspar, is a fake who probably never existed,” she writes.
“And if there’s any variety of crime baked into Florida’s history, it’s fraud. From the indigenous residents who supposedly conned Spanish explorers seeking the Fountain of Youth through the rolling cycles of real estate scams that have shaped the Sunshine State for the last century or so, the place is a grifter’s native habitat,” Bancroft adds.
And that history informs these stories set in different Tampa neighborhoods and its environs. Michael Connelly, who grew up in Florida, brings his perennial hero Harry Bosch to Tampa to help an old flame locate a missing painting stolen from her home in “The Guardian,” the collection’s showpiece. A conman messes with the wrong women in Ace Atkins’ “Tall, Dark, and Handsome,” a revenge tale of the highest caliber. Ladee Hubbard, whose debut novel received the Ernest J. Gaines Award, shows that loyalty to family never ends with “It’s Not Locked Because It Don’t Lock.”
Two-time Edgar winner Lori Roy’s “Chum in the Water” is akin to a documentary about a delusional house flipper. However, Tim Dorsey’s “Triggerfish Lane” disappoints though it does have his series character Serge A. Storm meting out his own form of retribution. Other authors who bring their vision of Tampa include Lisa Unger, Sterling Watson and even Bancroft herself.
“Tampa Bay Noir” shines a light on “the shady stuff people get up to in the sunshine,” writes Bancroft.
©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)