Review: Jacked: A Crime Anthology edited by Vern Smith

cover of JackedJacked: A Crime Anthology edited by Vern Smith
Run Amok Books (July 1, 2022)
242 pages; $18.99 paperback
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Jacked: A Crime Anthology features stories that cover a wide swath of the crime genre, giving readers the chance to indulge in their favorites while also discovering some new approaches to classic crime tropes.

This is the rare anthology that I enjoyed cover-to-cover, with no letdowns in quality. I’ll highlight a few favorites here, but know going in that every story selected by Vern Smith provides a compelling reading experience.

“First Timers” by Eric Beetner follows a couple of neophyte thieves who, motivated by boredom, steal a car on a Friday night. When they discover what’s in the car they stole, they find themselves hurtling down a life-altering path….with someone else at the wheel.

“Fighting the Last War” by Shane Leavy starts with a group of kids killing an afternoon in a movie theater. One of them gets into a physical altercation with a fellow movie-goer when a little teasing goes too far, and things escalate at a frightening rate. The way the initial interaction leads to a series of life-altering events is sobering, and all-too reminiscent of the short fuses and impulsive actions we see in society today.

“Skeleton Filing” by Christine Boyer follows a woman who is this close to pulling off a long con…only she can’t help but brag a little just as she’s crossing the finish line. The person she brags to is of no higher moral character than she is, and his reaction spells trouble for them both.

As you can see, consequences is a common thread running through these stories, and through many others featured in Jacked as well. Smith and his writers gleefully get down in the dirt to show the underbelly of the criminal undereworld. Highly recommended.

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