Old vines and older grudges tangle in the Okanagan Valley. An elderly widow, eking out a living collecting detritus, seeks to avenge the murder of her friend. A love-weary security guard clashes with bounty hunters. An ursine meth-cooker faces even stranger creatures on the frozen tundra of Nunavut. As the dead walk and the living despair, a private detective unravels a bizarre mystery. In The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, the whole spectrum of the noir esthetic is explored: from its hardboiled home in crime fiction to its grim forays into horror, fantasy, and surrealism; from the dystopian shadows it casts in science fiction to the mixture of desire and corruption it brings to erotica; from the blood-spattered romance of the frontier to the stark nihilism of literary realism.
Editors Lalumi re and Nickle (veteran and new anthologists, respectively) have assembled an anthology that is largely successful in its goals. The quality of prose is almost universally high, but the quality of storytelling is highly uneven. It's worth purchasing for several stories alone, including Ada Hoffmann's "Lady Blue and the Lampreys," Patrick Fleming's "A Nothingale," Kelly Robson's "Good for Grapes," and Rich Larson's "This is the Party." However, including Laird Long's "Rooker" and Michael Mirolla's "Safety" does the collection a disservice; the latter's (likely unintentionally) misogynist narratives harken back to the more discomfiting elements of pulp-era and later American noir's longstanding problems with women. The anthology has a small proportion of women authors just five out of 22 and the majority of stories lack three-dimensional female characters, which is surprising given the well-balanced prior work of both Lalumi re and Nickle. Otherwise, the book as a whole works well as a somewhat more progressive, more Canadian take on the broad umbrella of noir as what one contributor calls "a tone, an overlay, a mood."