Midnight Hour is a fun crime fiction anthology where each entry spotlights a dastardly deed that occurs around the witching hour. Like most anthologies, this one is a mixed bag of both tricks and treats. Fortunately, the haul presented within mostly contained full-sized Almond Joy and the three-pack Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Yes, there were a few sour apple Jolly Ranchers along with the occasional single stick of gum. And Juicy Fruit at that. C’mon… who only gives out single sticks of gum at Halloween?
Hey, everyone’s taste in fiction runs as varied as the colors of M&Ms. Some stick with the classic milk chocolate. Others dig the peanuts. Members of Van Halen only jammed to the green ones. As assorted as these records are in this anthology, there certainly has to be someone who enjoyed the account about the conflict in the stationary store. Or the one written in second person. You know, the one you thought was a joke when you were reading it. Before you skipped to the next chapter. Right.
Stories within Midnight Hour are mostly the standard setup-jump-twist format. A number conclude too soon – or too conveniently, which is always the bane of short stories. A few go too deep with characters, and names, and specifics that weigh down what should be tidy. And then there are those that truly stand out. The sparkle within a cluster of shadows. Tracy Clark’s Lucky Thirteen, about an suspecting serial killer and his unsuspecting guest. Skin by David Heska Wanbli Weiden that tells of a quest of Native Americans trying to right a long-dead wrong.
There are tales of vengeance. With women playing the antagonist; posing as the punisher. Perhaps even a redeemer. Jennifer Chow’s Midnight Escapade features revenge birthed from that most awful period in everyone’s lives: high school. There are tales of murder, justified or not, in The Bridge by Abby Vandiver and Callie Browning’s Dead Men Tell No Tales.
VM Burns brings a touch of action in The Vermeer Conspiracy where an art detective rounds up stolen pieces. Dark humor is subtlety breached In The Matter Of Mabel And Bobby Jefferson; a story by Christopher Chambers uniquely set in that most fearful of environments: help desk support.
The grand scheme behind Abby Vandiver’s Midnight Hour was a gathering of fiction writers of color. One would think by 2021 such a distinction would not be important. That writers are writers and their work should be held in high regard no matter color, creed, or gender. But this being 2021, such a collection is absolutely important. And necessary.
I am glad this was compiled and I enjoyed the stories within.
One final mention. Cape May Murders, by Tina Kashian, is a paint-by-numbers murder mystery that takes place in a Victorian B-and-B down in the famous South Jersey shore resort. As I type this review, I am sitting on a long-backed rocker out on a wooden deck. The sun is hitting my face. The sound of the waves is not far away; nor is the light smell of salt. And I look out onto the narrow road of Perry Street. That leads directly to the beach. In beautiful Cape May.