Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older

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“This is when I seem to be a sum of only negative parts: Not dead, not alive. Not a father or a son. No memory, no past. Aloof even with my closest friends, unless we’re laughing about some grim shit that just popped off.”

Daniel José Older is quickly becoming a person that I like. You know, one of those people you see tweeting and writing awesome things and you like the things they say, and then you read their published works and it turns out they write awesome fiction too. After an article of Older’s popped up somehow on my Twitter feed, I found out he had published a book of short stories called Salsa Nocturna, and immediately put it on my to-read list. And to my delight, Oyster* had it available!

Salsa Nocturna is indeed a collection of short stories. I’m not generally a fan of short stories, HOWEVER, this is an exception for several reasons:

  1. They’re interconnected short stories, all resolving around the same or somehow-related characters. Those are my favorite kind.
  2. These are ghost noir stories, and quite unlike anything I’ve ever read.
  3. They’re FABULOUS.

The main character of these stories is Carlos Delacruz. He’s half-dead, half-alive, and it makes him a convenient employee for NYC’s Council of the Dead. His job is basically to investigate and solve any weirdness happening in the ghost community. The stories start off alternating between Delacruz and some other characters and are kind of light – I think the first story is about a phantom pachyderm, which tickled and delighted me in so many ways. Some of the stories were downright creepy. But through them all, you get to know Carlos – he has a bit of the lonely tough guy thing going, but has clear soft spots. He has a grim, dark kind of humor about him. There’s a great cast of characters, including a ridiculous ghost named Riley.

The NYC of both the dead and alive that these stories are set in feels incredibly vivid, and I’m really excited that Older just released a full-length novel on Tuesday called Half-Resurrection Blues – a prequel that will tell a little more of Delacruz’s story and the start of what I expect will be a really enjoyable series.

“There’s two kinds of people that really are drawn to me: Kids and dead people. Oh yeah, and crackheads on the street but that hardly counts because they obviously have an agenda.”

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

*This is the first book I’ve read completely on Oyster! That goodness for my Kindle Fire – having the option to read on a tablet, phone, or desktop is so nice and Oyster is really user-friendly and (clearly) has a great selection. The only downside is that for Android devices, you can’t highlight text yet – but you can bookmark the page. I bookmarked pages and then had to search through those for the quotes I liked and wanted to include here. I’ll be really happy when they add the highlighting feature.

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