cover image Unlucky Seven

Unlucky Seven

Dave Zeltserman. Second Avenue, $7.99 trade paper (120p) ASIN B08QRZ7TXN

The seven short stories in this impressive collection from Zeltserman (21 Tales) combine sharp-edged prose with grim twists. One of the strongest is “Brother’s Keeper,” in which bar owner Jack Tomlinson has to think fast when his business is invaded by two goons seeking to collect a debt Tomlinson’s brother Mitch owes their boss. Jack’s belief that he can pay off the amount from petty cash is shattered when the thugs clarify that the 720 Mitch owes represents $720,000, not $720. That forces Tomlinson to make hard choices that he believes are ultimately in his sibling’s interests. Tough love is also in evidence in “Emma Sue,” in which a robber must protect his partner-in-crime and lover after a heist at a hardware store goes south. Zeltserman is especially good at ending his tales with a wicked bite that upends what readers have been led to expect, as in “The Caretaker of Lorne Green” and “Some People Deserve to Die.” He also integrates noir into two procedural plots featuring Boston PD detectives Sullivan and Heller. Fans of literate noir will hope Zeltserman writes more in the subgenre. (Self-published)