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Bland, Eleanor Taylor, ed. Shades of black; crime and mystery stories by African-American writers.

BLAND, Eleanor Taylor, ed. Shades of black; crime and mystery stories by African-American writers. Penguin, Berkley. 353p. c2004. 0-425-20014-0. $14.00. SA

This collection of stories brings together contemporary African American writers from the popular field of mystery and crime fiction. These writers, united by a common genre and writing principally about African American characters, draw upon diverse settings and eras, from the mean streets of today's big American cities to a rural highway in Georgia, a tramp freighter on Lake Michigan, a small coastal village in 1928, and a passenger train in 1946. Assorted protagonists and sleuths--police, private, and amateur detectives (among the latter a delightful trio of 11-year-old girls in one of the anthology's best stories)--solve mysteries, investigate crimes, and confront a mind-boggling assortment of modus operandi (gunshot, poison, sexual mutilation, animal attacks, and more) and assorted criminals (unhappy spouse, corrupt policeman, gun-toting cowboy, computer hacker, werewolf, and more).

This uneven anthology, comprised of 21 stories published in 2004 and one published in 2002, was designed to appeal to African American readers and fans of crime and mystery fiction. A few of the stories are superb--and those few by themselves may be sufficient justification for cautiously recommending this book to YAs as well as adult fans--but at least half of the stories are unremarkable tales lacking plausible plots or interesting characters. This kind of qualitative imbalance, however, is often found in anthologies, and readers are accustomed to finding the gold among the dross.

I would also add this caution: nearly half the selections contain profanity that some readers might find offensive (although the good news is that the most commendable stories are generally unencumbered by such problems). Tim Davis, Lit. & Comp. Instructor, Univ. of W. Florida, FL

S--Recommended for senior high school students.

A--Recommended for advanced students and adults. This code will help librarians and teachers working in high schools where there are honors and advanced placement students. This also will help extend KLIATT's usefulness in public libraries.
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Author:Davis, Tim
Publication:Kliatt
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:331
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