Poisoned Pen Press, March 6, 2018
261 pages, ebook, paperback
Collection, Foreign, Short Stories
I was provided an e-ARC of this book by Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley. This is my honest review for which I receive no compensation of any type.
The cover is what drew me to this book initially. The wonderful use of the complementary color scheme and the mysterious feeling of the picture. You’d think it should be romantic, and yet the couple is draped in mystery. They don’t quite seem to belong together. The man appears to be an older type of gentleman and is all tucked up with his walking stick and cigar all held close. Rather looks quite high class and yet there is something about his face that makes him seem not quite so polished as I’m sure his shoes are. The woman appears to be young and fashionable. She stands a bit away from the man, at a distance, almost as if reluctantly meeting with him. Perhaps this is fanciful of me, but when I look at this cover that’s what I see.
There are fifteen short stories in this book written originally in various foreign languages, now translated into English. Some of these have been translated into English before, but for most, this is their first time being read by an English-speaking audience. As I have commented before in other reviews, foreign writers do write differently than American writers. There is an austerity about their writing that American writers simply can’t achieve. And they combine it with perfect, crisp diction that Americans simply don’t speak, even well-educated ones. This all comes through in the writing of foreign stories, and I found it in these stories.
I read them all and made notes on each as I went. I hadn’t decided how to review the book when I started it because I didn’t really know what I was getting into. As I read, I found myself still wondering how I would review this book of dark stories. I can’t classify them as mysteries because they aren’t all mysteries. There is a mix of types of stories in here. Some of them so short that I couldn’t figure out what they were. Some of them so ugly that I couldn’t figure out why they were written. Some of them quite entertaining. In the end, I liked about 50% of the stories in here, with about half of those being quite good. There was about 25% of the whole that was very dark and I found rather off-putting, with a few really too ugly for me to ever want to see again. The title was no clue of any sort, either. You would think that something called The Venom of the Tarantula would be rather dark, while something called The Kennel would be okay. When instead, The Venom of the Tarantula was very entertaining, and The Kennel was an extremely ugly story with its only redeeming quality being its briefness. A couple of others that I really liked were, The Puzzle of the Broken Watch, The Lipstick and the Teacup, The Mystery of the Green Room, The Return of Lord Kingwood, and The Swedish Match. These were well-written and had either very clever characters or a great twist to them that created very satisfying reading. The Spider was creepy and twisted. The Cold Night’s Clearing was very sad and depressing, and Kippers was just ugly. I want you to keep in mind that I read a lot of women’s literature and romance, fantasy and paranormal fiction and don’t like horror at all. For those of you who like the darker types of literature, this compilation of stories may be much more appealing and your percentages totally different from mine.