by Mary Frisbee
Published North American Review Press, 2018
Mary Frisbee’s Black Fin is the wonderful first release of North American Review’s new noir imprint Gas Station Pulp. The book centers on Olive Wiley, a street-smart, slightly shady young woman who happens upon a little girl, Sarah, whose mother has just been murdered. Olive only knows two things about the situation: that Sarah was probably supposed to die with her mother, and that she can’t entrust the child to the authorities because the murderer might be among them. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse between the aptly named Ms. Wiley and an increasingly desperate antagonist.
Black Fin had me from the beginning, provoking a slew of questions I needed answers to. Who is the murdered woman? Why was she killed? Why leave the child alive, but doomed? What’s Olive’s deal? It’s a dark story, as all noir should be, with a damaged protagonist front and center, but a strand of hope and compassion lies with the little girl, Sarah. Sarah is a sweet, innocent child traumatized to the point of muteness by recent events. Her condition adds a so-close-but-so-far tension to the narrative. She has information that could be helpful to Olive, but she’s not in any state to properly express it.
Olive is tough and fiercely analytical which keeps her a satisfying step ahead. As the story progresses, her backstory unfolds to solidify an understanding of why she would go to such great lengths to help a child she doesn’t know. You can’t help but root for her and the kid.
Mary Frisbee writes with urgency without skimping on details, always giving you what you need without allowing the story to stagnate or become predictable. I certainly felt like I was in good hands. It’s easy to see why Gas Station Pulp chose Black Fin as their inaugural release and hopefully, it is a portent of great things to come.
Black Fin is available for pre-order now at the link below.