I received an advance reader copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
I love Hard Case Crime novels. I do not always love short story collections.
Short stories are fine for what they are: brief and occasionally visceral peaks into the window of whatever context they are examining. I prefer a long, drawn out tale to sink my teeth into, but I do appreciate those who can move an entertain with a limited scope.
Given that the best noirs rely on sparseness, it’s a genre that lends itself to the short story. And considering that most of the stories in Charles Ardai’s Death Comes Too Late (if not all) lean heavy into noir, this collection works quite well.
I’ve been reading Ardai’s work since his early years editing Hard Case Crime and it’s great to see how he continues to improve as a writer. He has a deep love of the genre he works in and it shines here in a collection of tales, each with an unpredictable end that’s steeped in the noir tradition. Tonally, they range from the silly and hilarious (Don’t Be Cruel, which was my personal favorite) to the brief and incredibly tragic (The Day After Tomorrow). Other favorites included The Case, Goin’ West, Nobody Wins, Jonas and the Frail (oh what an ending!), and Last Night at Charley’s (never went the way I expected). But you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Ardai has worked hard to keep the lights on at Hard Case Crime so it’s great to see him get a chance to shine with his own work. This is a must read for anyone who likes the label, appreciates the noir tradition, or just wants some great short stories.