*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: An impressive and very funny collection of stories by Teresa Solana but the fun is very dark indeed. The oddest things happen. Statues decompose and stink out galleries, two old grandmothers are vengeful killers, a prehistoric detective on the verge of becoming the first religious charlatan trails a triple murder that is threatening cave life as the early innocents knew it. The collection also includes a sparkling web of Barcelona stories–connected by two criminal acts–that allows Solana to explore the darker side of different parts of the city and their seedier inhabitants.
This book is made up of short stories split into two sections: ‘Blood, Guts and Love’ and ‘Blood Connections’. The stories in the first section are separate and distinct from each other, but the stories in ‘Blood Connections’ contain subtle links and threads that tie them together, forming a network of individual stories that highlights the interconnectedness (and simultaneously, isolation) of modern city life.
The stories are generally told in the first-person or in a third-person intimately omniscient narrative, and the characters are often unpleasant; after all, some of them are murders! There is a common theme of self-centred self-interest in many of the tales, as the characters go about their lives occasionally intersecting others but with an intense focus on their own wants and fears.
The style of writing is direct and punchy. Short, pithy sentences have a powerful impact, especially when the content can be shocking or unexpected, but it did mean that many of the characters had quite similar narrative voices. This may relate to the book being a translation from the original Spanish?
Most of the stories here feature some form of crime and there is a twisted sense of humour and strong feel for the ironic, which lightens the sometimes macabre tone and makes even the grotesque amusing. I particularly enjoyed the titular short story as this comedic tone came through clearly in the prehistoric satire of modern gender relations. Other stories provoked different strong emotions, for instance ‘Paradise Gained’ nearly gave me an ulcer as I read, with my anxiety almost as high as Sergi’s!
My favourite aspect of these short stories was the way in which Teresa Solana plays with sudden changes of tone, pace and plot direction to subvert the reader’s expectations, with some surprising results.
These stories are a great quick read for fans of crime fiction, with dashes of humour and a distinct flavour of contemporary Barcelonan life (well, life on the dark side!).
After clearing it with Ethelred, I started my interrogations and spoke to every member of the tribe to see if anyone was without an alibi. Unfortunately, they all had one, because they swore to a man they were snoozing in the cave. As I’d spent the night at the necropolis reflecting on the question of existence, I realized I was the only one without a rock-solid alibi. But I’d swear I didn’t kill Athelstan. I’m almost absolutely sure on that front.
– Teresa Solana, ‘The First Prehistoric Serial Killer’ in The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and other stories
The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and other stories releases on Amazon today!