Marrakech Noir edited by Yassin Adnan
Originally Published 2018
Despite their variety, these stories remain rooted on Moroccan soil–allowing the contributing authors to bring readers closer to the linguistic, cultural, religious, and ethnic reality of Marrakech, whether Arab, Amazigh, African, or Muslim, as well as its historic Mellah–the Jewish Quarter.
Here is the capital of tourism, the city of joy and sadness, the city of simple living, the city linked to international capitals through daily flights, the city of the new European community, a winter resort for French retirees, and a refuge for immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Marrakech is also known for its sex tourism and a new generation of crimes. All of these aspects of the city are reflected in these stories, no matter how sordid. The authors haven’t written only stories, they have tried to write Marrakech as well. Together their stories present a comprehensive portrait of the city, its sadness, violence, tension, and darkness, without neglecting its joyful spirit.
So far I have only had a couple of experiences with the Akashic Noir range of short story collections, each of which focuses on a different city. I found both Prague Noir and Moscow Noir to be pretty mixed affairs, containing some stories I enjoyed and quite a few I didn’t care for.
Marrakech Noir shares some aspects in common with those previous collections I have read – each has an introduction that emphasizes how new mystery fiction is to their respective cultures. In fact in the introduction to this collection Yassin Adnan identifies there as being no more than thirty mystery novels written by authors from Morocco and no short story collections at all.
That lack of a mystery fiction tradition is quite clear in a lot of the stories here and in several cases it would be hard to justify the label at all yet I think when judged as a collection of short stories dealing with crimes, secrets and the life of the city it works really very well.
The first section was the strongest for me with several standout stories that explored identity or contained interesting story beats. I was particularly intrigued with A Noisy Disappearance in an Ill-Reputed Alley which details the investigation into the disappearance of a Spanish director in the city and Other Places which builds to a perfect noir conclusion.
The most poignant story in the second section is that of a mother’s campaign to have the government release her son in In Search of a Son. Perhaps my favorite story in the whole collection is The Secret in Fingertips which adheres to the noir structure and themes and I think manages particularly well to balance those elements with the Moroccan culture elements of the story.
The final section is, sadly, the weakest and unfortunately I think the final few stories largely underwhelm. I did appreciate Frankenstein’s Monster however for its portrayal of how commerce springs up around a graveyard to help families supplement their income and for its clever combination of a film with the themes of the story.
Overall, while this collection is not perfect I think it brings the city of Marrakech to life and helps to capture something of the spirit of the city. While not all the stories will appeal to mystery enthusiasts, I think most are successful and there is a good mix of story styles and themes.Continue reading “Marrakech Noir edited by Yassin Adnan”