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Mysti Berry
Low Down Dirty Vote Volume 3
22 writers, some award-winners, some being published for the first time, share their crime fiction short stories all relating to the theme "the color of my vote." Volume 3 will raise $10,000 for Democracy Docket, an organization defending voting rights against suppressive legislation in over a dozen states in the U.S. The stories range from cozy to noir, and feature authors from the U.S., Germany, India, and the UK.
The third volume in this ballot-minded crime anthology series once again finds democracy at stake, both in its diverse, hair-raising fictions and in the real world, enough so that its publication is again pegged to a fundraiser for voting rights causes, this time with proceeds going to Democracy Docket. Editor Berry, who conceived and has overseen all three installments, notes in her introduction two distinguishing characteristics of the latest crop of crime tales crafted around the subject of voting: First, this time, many of the stories pulse with fresh anger, which Berry persuasively links to the zeitgeist. Second: They increasingly edge toward speculative fiction, which makes sense—so does American life.

From page one, this volume stirs chills of recognition as David Corbett’s “An Incident at the Cultural Frontier” opens with a trucker’s convoy of “inspectors” rolling up on a polling place, and Faye Snowden’s electric “The Obsession of Abel Tangier” turns on the line “Ethel started bringing a loaded Smith & Wesson .45 to every school board meeting after the death threats started.” Other stories center persistent American anxieties, like the possibility that an organized crime syndicate will do whatever it takes to rig a Newark mayoral race in Thomas Pluck’s “Joey Cucuzza Loses His Election,” or the radio host whose racist invective reveals the ugly truth of a beach town’s secession campaign in Sarah M. Chen’s jolting “Riviera Red.”

The speculative tales prove both playful and upsetting. Babies seize the power of the ballot from indifferent parents in Camille Minichino’s inspired and inspiring “Vote Early,” while Ember Randall’s “How to (Actually) Change the World” imagines the fate of the first A.I. candidate for president. History and political violence (the murder of a Chicago alderman in 1963; the assassination of Austria-Hungary’s presumptive Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914) loom over the collection, but what’s scariest is most familiar: men with power intimidating everyone else to give up their own.

Takeaway: Outraged crime stories from diverse authors, all centered on the act of voting.

Great for fans of: Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps, Malka Older.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A