Eibonvale Press, UK
Trade Paperback, 324 pages, £ 8.99
Review by Mario Guslandi
Brendan Connell is an eclectic, talented writer whose stories range from sheer horror to soft SF, from historical pastiches to fairy tales for grown-ups. The common ground for Connell’s stories is the dark, unsettling nature of his excellent narrative craftsmanship.
Unpleasant Tales collects twenty-two tales which confirm both quality and variety of the author’s fiction.
Some stories are extremely nasty and overtly horrific such as the gruesome “The Maker of Fine Instruments” where a musical nut ends up making a musical instrument of his own mutilated body, the extreme, grandguignolesque “The Cruelties of Him” featuring a crazy doctor who endeavors to modify the very anatomy of the human body and the decadent “The Putrimanic” in which a man gets fond of anything repulsive.
The irresistible “The Nanny Goat” portrays an old, virgin spinster who, having acquired a desirable young body by means of witchcraft, devotes herself to the pleasures of sex until the final disaster, and the very dark “The Skin Collector,” although a bit predictable, manages to give the shivers to the engrossed reader.
Connell’s “fairy tales” are equally enjoyable, such as the strange, compelling “The Last of the Burrowars,” told in a very captivating narrative style, and the colorful “The Girl of Wax” where the waxen statue of a beautiful plebeian girl becomes the closest companion of a posh prince.
If you like historical pieces here we have the delightful “The Last Mermaid” revolving around the life of Carlo II, King of Spain and “The Flatterer” a vivid tableau describing a nosh-up in antique Rome.
If you prefer black comedy you will certainly enjoy the semi-serious “The Nasty Truth About Dentists,” the excellent “Sirens,” depicting the revenge of a woman on the plants which make her beloved neglect her advances, and the outstanding, offbeat “Virgin Hearts” featuring a rejuvenated, naughty, wealthy old man, his nephew and his greedy daughter-in-law, and a cruel Russian beauty.
Not satisfied yet? Then read on and you’ll find a fascinating tale of sea adventures “We Sleep on a Thousand Waves Beneath the Stars.”
You can hardly ask more from a single book by a single author.