Have you seen the [Insert City Name Here] Noir series of books? They're collections of short stories, all set in a particular location, meant to capture different aspects of noir fiction. From the expected cities like New York and Los Angeles to exotic locales like Mumbai, they have one for just about every place imaginable. They even have collections for places that are usually the butt of jokes, like Staten Island and, yes, New Jersey. I was quick to grab New Jersey Noir when I saw it on the shelf at the library. I had read and enjoyed Boston Noir a couple of years ago and was interested to see how the series would translate to my home turf.
Joyce Carol Oates edits the volume and opens with an introduction that talks about the different elements that define the noir style. She points out that it can involve classic crime elements, like world weary detectives, but it can also involve less traditional forms of plot twists and betrayal. Most of the stories that followed fell into this less traditional category. There were some interesting pieces, like a quirky story by Jonathan Safran Foer in which a disgraced Princeton professor gets sucked into an alternate reality via Google Maps, and some creepy pieces, like a story involving a stalker set, of course, in the town where I live (luckily the twist at the end of that one was a big enough surprise to turn the story on its head and save me from having to look over my shoulder as I walk around my neighborhood!), but none really captured that dark, misty, mysterious feeling that I usually get when reading more traditional types of noir fiction. I know that trench coated private investigators lurking among dark shadows may be some of the more cliche elements of noir, but I found that I missed some of those cliches when they were lacking in this collection.