All the regular caveats and such. You’ll notice several short story collections and two books from 2017 I finally caught up with. But first, the Book of the Year.
The rest of the Best listed alphabetically.
Here are some books from 2018 that are worthy of your money as well and, again, listed in no particular order: “Know Me From Smoke” by Matt Phillips, “Welcome to HolyHell” by Math Bird, “The Science of Paul” by Aaron Philip Clark, “Fast Bang Booze” by Lawrence Maddox, “Down the River Unto The Sea” by Walter Mosley, “Accidental Outlaws” by Matt Phillips, “May” by Marietta Miles, “Knuckledragger” by Rusty Barnes, and “Breaking Glass” by Alec Cizak.
There is a battle going on between writers and it’s over transparent prose. Usually, I side with the practitioners of transparent prose as this generally works best with crime fiction. But there is also a third faction in these wars and that is with the storytellers. These are the books that one reads, nay experience where we recognize that we are being told a story, fairy tales and fables are the clearest examples of this style. Teresa Solana’s “The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories” (Bitter Lemon Press) is of this third group.
The first words we read are of Solano breaking the fourth wall with a brief note to the readers. And beyond this preface, the stories all have the quality of being spoken to us as we are nestled in bed awaiting Morpheus to descend.
The short story, “The First Prehistoric Serial Killer”, introduces us to Solana’s writing style, the absurd mixed with a grounding of reality. As with most stories throughout Solana’s collection, this story is told in the first person. A body is discovered one morning in a cave of a clan of troglodytes. This is the third body with its head smashed in recent times and our protagonist is the one assigned to investigate the murders. The absurdity of the story builds upon itself continually as the protagonist cannot really hunt, spends his time thinking, is named Mycroft, and invented fire.
Solana’s collection is divided into two parts, the first being the “Blood, Guts and Love” which is filled with fantastical crime stories involving vampires, artists, old ladies, and ghosts. The second section, “Connections” could be considered to be securely fastened in one’s day to day lives if the body count wasn’t so high. In this second part, Solana tells a series of stories that are loosely connected with bit characters in one story being the point of view in the next and so on. These stories are the tales of poisoners, adulterers, liars, bankers, and Chinese assassins.
Originially written in the Catalan, Solana’s stories have a direct link to the books I have read from the Spanish—this is with the caveat than my knowledge of Catalan literature is nill. Even at their darkest, these stories all contain a wonderment and a realism that come together splendidly giving their entire collection an ethereal quality.