The reason I like food is because it's the one thing we all have in common... Every culture has its own cuisine. Every city has its signature dish...Every New Yorker has their favourite pizza place. Everyone in Singapore has their favourite stall, or their favourite dish that best represents their country. And every country has traditions related to food and hospitality... Every person alive can probably name a dish they ate in their childhood that meant something to them. Something that sparks a memory." ~ From Have You Eaten? by Rob Hart.
Take-Out is an exciting new collection of short crime stories by Rob Hart, author of the Ash McKenna series. The stories are modern noir, some set in New York, others elsewhere. Some are darkly funny, others very bleak, but they are all loosely linked by the theme of food. Unusually for a short story anthology, there is not a single dud story in the collection. The following are my favourites;
How to Make the Perfect New York Bagel is the story of an old-school baker standing up to those who would take his shop and his legacy from him.
Foodies is a wry look at someone exploiting the 'foodie' culture of New York by charging hefty prices to those who want to sample the forbidden.
Creampuff is a short vignette about a bouncer who maintains order in the lines outside a bakery selling an exclusive, coveted pastry.
Knock-Off- An entertainer who works in Times Square dressed as a children's character gets pulled back into the drug scene in desperation to make rent.
Lake Paradox is the odd one out as the only speculative fiction story in the collection. It's the creepy tale of two prison escapees waiting for an accomplice to come and pick them up from a hideout in the woods where they may be trapped forever.
The eponymous Take-Out, the story of a gambler who runs up a debt to the house at a gambling den in Chinatown and is forced to work as a delivery man until the debt is settled. It reminded me of the work of Elmore Leonard.
Swipe Left pits Ophelia, a young woman of colour trained in Krav Maga against celebrated Neo-Nazi Roger Spector (sound familiar?). Ophelia hopes to win Spector over with reason but is not above violence if that's what it takes. Have You Eaten?- A criminal on the run is finally tracked down at a Singapore food court, where he monologues about his love of food while contemplating escape.
Take-Out is a great collection of crime stories that makes for some moreish holiday reading. It's a lot of fun, but best read on a full stomach.
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Polis Books, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Published: January 25, 2019