It is not easy to come up with new concepts for short story anthologies. In recent years we have seen anthologies based around the music catalog of certain artists – such as Trouble in the Heartland – and those focused on a certain location – such as the Anthony-Award winning Blood on the Bayou – but E. A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen wanted to try something different with their co-edited anthology. Thus, The Night of the Flood was conceived – a collection of interconnected short stories by different authors centered on a single fictional event.
Each of the stories in this collection takes place in Everton, Pennsylvania on the night that the dam high above the town was destroyed. Typically, a review would references a few of the stories, but because since each of these submissions is so strong and unique, this review will talk about each of them briefly.
Introduction by Hank Phillippi Ryan:
Hank Phillippi Ryan kicks things off with a short introduction that clues readers in to the idea of the collection. Hank refers to the various ways this book is so successful. Most intriguingly, she hints at how the stories will reflect and interact with each other in interesting ways. In a spot on comparison, Hank refers to Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, making passing note of the different styles, tones, and intentions within the included stories.
Dear Townspeople of Everton by Jenny Milchman:
An ominous beginning that sets the whole collection into motion. Milchman is responsible for letting readers know why the dam collapsed – hint, it wasn’t an accident – and provides some needed backstory on the town’s history. In the form of a letter to the town, Milchman reveals both the logical and irrational motives going through the minds of The Daughters.
The Orphans by E. A. Aymar:
In this excellent story, a pair of young adult Bonnie and Clyde-like ruffians plan to raid the houses of the rich while the town is evacuating to safety. That is until one of them discovers there is a limit to the havoc they are willing to wreak. Aymar nails the dark humor, warped sense of moral superiority, and economic vigilantism inherent in this brother and sister team’s rationale.
Anything Worth Saving by Wendy Tyson:
Tyson introduces an outsider perspective by writing a deceptively-simple story about a woman who comes to town for the funeral of her aunt only to discover that her kin was running a grift on the entire town. Can she navigate family dynamics and figure out the puzzle before losing her life?
The Copy Man by J. J. Hensley:
In a cleverly-constructed suspense story, an employee at a copy shop proves that his unique problem solving skills are in top shape when a few fugitives stop in to obtain fake documents. Hensley builds a nice level of tension during this story with unexpected consequences.
The Curse by Mark Edwards:
A couple hides out in Everton – on the run from demons, but not the metaphorical kind – a literal demon. This is probably the most unique story in the collection because the paranormal elements push it towards the horror end of the spectrum. However, it lingers in the mind because it is so very different than the others.
And the Water Kept Rising by Alan Orloff:
In this story, a showdown between two residents leads to a case of unexpected opportunity for a third – or does it? Having multiple narrators is difficult enough to pull off in a longer book, but Orloff skillfully navigates this format in this shorter spine-chiller.
Bad Day to be a Bad Guy by Angel Luis Colón:
Colón is the only author to introduce a character from his own series into this new universe. Blacky Jaguar (and his car) take center stage in this gritty, noir tale that feels completely organic within the constructs of the collection.
Marta by Gwen Florio:
This tale of loyalty between a domestic servant and her employer plays to Florio’s strengths as a foremost documenter of issues related to immigrants and outsiders. Marta had a rough past in Ciudad Juarez, but found a way to overcome it. Nora is an elderly – and thus under-estimated – force to reckon with. Together, they are unstoppable and reader’s won’t be able to stop turning the pages.
Carter Hank McKater Takes a Sedative at on in the A. M. by Shannon Kirk:
Kirk’s compulsively-readable story is about a writer who takes the advice “write what you know” to the extreme. McKater is a character of contradictions – none of them good. This story is probably the most important for understanding the overall backstory tied to the dam explosion, and yet it would work surprisingly well out of context too.
Bales by Rob Brunet:
Brunet’s story features a collection of incompetent low-level hoodlums involved in drug dealing. The dark humor in this one feels authentic to the characters residing in a motel in no-where town USA.
The Darkest Hour by Hilary Davidson:
This mini domestic thriller about a mother who will do anything to keep her children safe is a fast-paced and action-oriented story. I am loath to choose a favorite in this collection, but there is not denying that Davidson’s story is a real highlight.
A Watery Grave by Sarah M. Chen:
Chen gives readers another multi-POV story. In this one, two vigilantes set out to stop The Daughters, while Loree has the bad timing of passing through the wrong town at the wrong time. These three tangle in unexpected ways and the outcome remains uncertain, keeping readers hooked until they discover who lives and who…drowns.
The Chase by Elizabeth Heiter:
Familial love dominates this story of a police officer trying to protect her brother. This is probably the most psychologically-astute story in the collection and the tension throughout is palpable. Heiter wastes not one word in this tight story eliciting unexpected emotion from the reader.
Epilogue by Jennifer Hillier:
Hiller gets the unenviable task of wrapping things up in a coherent manner. With this story of a news reporter trying to get the breaking scoop on the action around town, she manages to do just what is necessary to summarize this collection without sacrificing her ability to provide a zinger of an ending.
The Night of the Flood is an impressive collection of stories from some of the most talented writers working in the crime genre today. The intertextuality amongst the stories is truly impressive. The subtle – and sometimes blatant – references between these works will warrant and reward multiple readings of The Night of the Flood. As Hank Phillippii Ryan states in her introduction: it is impossible to know how this idea was organized, but we readers also don’t want to know. We would rather think of it as magic and hope that these authors brew up another set of interconnected tales again sometime in the future.
Buy Links: THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.