Teresa Solana’s collection, The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories, is one that rewards readers who have a twisted sense of humor. Peter Bush’s translation preserves every twist of each story, as well as maintains Solana’s sly portraits of characters who are hilariously oblivious to what’s going on around them, ones who are more than willing to eliminate people for the slightest gain, and the ones who are just plain unlucky. I had more fun with this collection than I probably should have.
Some of the standout stories from this collection are:
“The Son-in-Law.” This story is one of my absolute favorites in the collection. In this story, an elderly mother calmly receives a pair of mossos (the Catalan term for the Barcelona police) in her apartment as they ask about her missing son-in-law. It isn’t long before the mother tips us readers in on what really happened to the man and were he can be found. I love this story because of the mother’s sheer gumption.
“Still Life No. 41.” This story made me laugh the most. It spins out a old joke about modern art—that no one really understands what they’re looking at—and turns it into the scandal of the art world. Here, a young director of a modern art museum laments how her career has been ruined by a mistake anyone could have made (according to her) involving a series of statues by an artist know for his high realism (including smells). After all, she thinks, who would turn down an extra statue by an artist in high demand?
“Happy Families.” The mansion in this story probably is cursed. It’s not just that it’s inhabited by two centuries of ghosts, it’s that everyone who comes into possession of the house is doomed to a short life and a bloody death. In other hands, this story could have been chilling and quintessentially Gothic. In Solana’s hands, however, we have a bunch of ghosts who are choosy about their post-life company. When the house changes hands and they catch wind of a murder plot, the ghosts leap into action.
“Connections.” The later two-thirds or so of The Prehistoric Serial Killer are a collection within a collection. These linked stories share characters that are peripheral in one story but become lead characters in another. The first story in this little series introduces a typically self-absorbed teenager who has the bad luck to witness a murder. In the next, we find out who was murdered and why. The stories after that edge further away from that murder to reveal other crimes. My favorite is the blackly funny story about a woman who commits murder after murder to get away from the one thing she hates the most: opera.
I enjoyed The Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories very much—so much that I hope her other stories and novels are available in translation from Catalan. Solana never does the expected thing and isn’t afraid to play around with topics that others don’t see as fit for comedy. But then, I know I have a warped sense of humor. I would strongly recommend this collection for other readers who are also seeking stories that will make them laugh a little too hard at things they shouldn’t.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration. It will be released 4 September 2018.