This incredibly witty and carefully crafted short-story collection is divided into two parts. The first, ‘Blood, Guts and Love’ begins with the title story, in which a caveman stumbles his way through an investigation of the very first murder. This slyly humorous and somewhat whimsical tale paves the way for the remainder of the section, in which we encounter murderous, revenge-driven grandmas, a satire tale on the contemporary art world, a family of meddling ghosts and an out-of-touch vampire. My personal favourite from this opening half is ‘The Son-in-Law’, in which we read of two unsuspecting murderers (simply looking for revenge for a family member) who come up with an inventive yet disturbing way of disposing of a body. Another fantastic – although very different – story is ‘Still Life’. This is perhaps the most satirical piece in the collection, with Solana offering dark and twisted criticism of the bourgeoisie and the art world. Like much of Solana’s work, this first half brims with satire and dark humour, and of course, an edge of the surreal.
With the second half of the collection, ‘Connections’, Solana’s style becomes less whimsical and more subtle, although her satire and dark humour is still present in the eight crime stories all connected by a murder in a Barcelona pharmacy. Solana shows her mastery in this intricate story cycle, in which a bloody crime and its consequences forge small yet significant connections between upper-class Barcelona and the criminal underworld. Murder, betrayal, and organised crime reign here, offering a more serious tone than the first half of the collection. ‘Connections’ opens with a story about a spoilt rich girl witnessing the pharmacy shooting. With the tale of a British diplomat who deeply regrets the decision he has made to leave his wife for a less-than-ideal younger lady, the connections begin to form. We also meet a woman who takes desperate measures to avoid attending the opera, an interpreter who becomes witness to something she wished she had never seen, and many others.
This finely crafted collection, full of whimsy, horror and dark wit, is a joy to read. But beyond the clever humour are important and relevant themes. Alongside the cynical takes on society and politics are the less obvious messages about generational difference, identity, selfishness and ignorance. A fun, yet impactful collection.
Reviewed by Alice Banks
The First Prehistoric Serial Killer by Teresa Solana
Translated by Peter Bush
Published by Bitter Lemon Press (2018)
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Alice Banks is a copy editor and literary translator from French and Spanish based in Ciudad Real, Spain. After graduating with a French degree from Bangor University, Alice went on to study for an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia. She currently volunteers for both The European Literature Network and Asymptote Journal.
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