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Teresa Solana: Crazy Tales of Blood and Guts.

BITTER LEMON PRESS
April 2013, £1.65, eBook, 978-1908524-294.

Barcelona in Catalonia is where they the play the best football in Europe and walk around smiling because of all the sunshine.  Or so we thought.   Admittedly, the sun does not entirely disappear in this impressive and very collection of stories by Teresa Solana but the fun is very dark indeed.  In ‘Crazy Tales’, 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, and a mortician falls in love with a woman during the autopsy.  Vampires are everywhere but this is the first who because he is cross eyed has reduced hypnotic powers. 

 All the tales mix crime and horror and are told with a sly sense of humour that dares the reader to accept the disturbing detail.  ‘Crazy Tales’ will appeal to those who like crime plots served with literary expertise.  Solana creates a strange world, one that today might have been imagined by Borges or Kafka, peopled with self-effacing, sometimes blasé but always dangerous oddballs not normally encountered in crime fiction.   All the stories contain genuine surprises that lead to unpredictable endings.   The characters reveal aspects of their personalities to make most gasp.  In the caves, the prehistoric detective is obliged to compare the three victims that have been mysteriously killed with a rock.  He notes several characteristics about the deceased including that none of the victims were immortal.  Half the fun of following the two doped up grandmothers through their homicidal plan is the tortuous dilemma of deciding who is the most villainous.   The mortician and the vampire who feature in separate stories are a lesson to us all in the dangers of obsession and even the generous in spirit would have to regard either of them as a little weird.  But I, like others undoubtedly did, rooted for these poor misfits.  Not that we did not have sympathy for the casualties.  Solana knows how to make characters whatever their deeds sympathetic.  This means more, though, than mere skill and technique.  The tales may have many dark comic moments but they do not merely permit the reader to turn the pages with a wry smile.   The characters that create mayhem in ‘Crazy Tales Of Blood And Guts’ not only slaughter, scatter limbs and leave a lot of blood behind, they like the psychopath in the classic Edgar Allen Poe story, ‘The Black Cat’, unwittingly reveal complex and contradictory personalities.   They may be extreme but their common inability to understand themselves and their dark motives make them all too human.  These are stories dominated by dark heroes and heroines who somehow combine a sense of propriety with savagery.  They have a capacity for kindness and sympathy to those they like while being able to inflict vicious cruelty on others.  ‘Crazy Tales’ is not so crazy after all. 

Howard Jackson