#BookReview - Soot by Andrew Martin

York, 1799.

In August, an artist is found murdered in his home - stabbed with a pair of scissors. Matthew Harvey's death is much discussed in the city. The scissors are among the tools of his trade - for Harvey is a renowned cutter and painter of shades, or silhouettes, the latest fashion in portraiture. It soon becomes clear that the murderer must be one of the artist's last sitters, and the people depicted in the final six shades made by him become the key suspects. But who are they? And where are they to be found?

Later, in November, a clever but impoverished young gentleman called Fletcher Rigge languishes in the debtor's prison, until a letter arrives containing a bizarre proposition from the son of the murdered man. Rigge is to be released for one month, but in that time, he must find the killer. If he fails, he will be incarcerated again, possibly for life.

And so, with everything at stake, and equipped only with copies of the distinctive silhouettes, Fletcher Rigge be…

Book Review - Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick


Michael Swanwick is a Hugo and Nebula award winning author and has numerous fans of his novels and short stories. However, it's only in the last few years that I've discovered how much I enjoy speculative fiction so this is my introduction to his writing.
 Short story collections remind me a bit of albums, some stories will become favourites whereas others may feel more like fillers, often skipped over. Now and again though an album is packed with quality and the same is true of Not So Much, Said the Cat. Inevitably there were some stories I was more drawn to but there are no weak tales here and I suspect that if you ask a group of readers each person will have a different list of favourites.
This is a generous collection of short stories and so rather than try to describe them all, here is a brief outline of those that particularly stood out for me;
The Dala Horse is a post apocalyptic Scandinavian fairytale, beautifully atmospheric and whimsical but as with the best folklore it is also dark and disturbing. Goblin Lake also has a fairytale feel to it and invites the reader to imagine what they would choose in the same situation, it reminded me somehow of Hans Christian Andersen's stories. Lovers of alien stories will be well satisfied too, From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled is an extraordinarily well crafted story, it simultaneously satisfied me as a beautifully told complete short story and left me wanting to read more about this strange world. Passage of Earth is truly chilling, I really enjoyed this one but it's also one of the most disturbing stories I've read in a long time. If I was really pushed to picked a favourite I'd be torn between Of Finest Scarlet was Her Gown which gives the collection its title and is a witty, richly imagined trip to hell, and Tawny Petticoats - if Dickens did SF, a bawdy, funny and yet thought provoking yarn.
This really is a smörgåsbord of a short story collection taking the reader from the Mesozoic era, to Russia, Hell, far off planets, an alternative Europe and dystopian worlds controlled by non humans. It's the perfect taster to Michael Swanwick's writing, it enthralled me and kept me awake at night thinking and left me wanting to read more.
Thanks to the publishers for my copy, received through NetGalley in return for my honest review.

Not So Much, Said the Cat is published by Tachyon Publications and is out now.

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