The latest in Akashic's long-running series of regional crime fiction, Haiti Noiranswers that question with 18 stories from as many writers. The result is catnip for anyone interested in the tropes of noir or the customs of Haiti. Inside, you'll find a kidnapping, countless murders and a vodou ceremony complete with a decapitated chicken. But except for a few tales of doomed detectives, you'll find almost no references to the police. As an old man tells us towards the end of a kidnapping yarn by Josaphat-Robert Large, "it's almost impossible to discover what's behind a mystery in this country." Accepting the unknown is part of Haiti's culture—and that includes mysterious cadavers. No one in the book worries much about prison, either: they're more concerned with not becoming the next victim.
The editor is memoirist Edwidge Danticat, and perhaps not surprisingly, she errs on the side of social commentary over genre tropes. Nearly every story involves some species of crime, but that crime could be anything from a businesslike home invasion to decades-old Dominican atrocities. Or possibly an earthquake. The book was assembled and, except for a sober introduction, entirely written before the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, but the quake is felt on almost every page, whether in Katia Ulysse's Poe-like story of expat resentment or more literally in Patrick Sylvain's story of an old woman shunned for witchcraft after a smaller quake. What emerges is a portrait of a people on the edge—facing down poverty daily, with only bad luck separating the innocent and the guilty. In short, the stuff of which good noir is made.