on March 9, 2013 :
One of the great pleasures of reading independent books is that moment you stumble on an unheralded example that gives the lie to the prevailing sense that self-published books are somehow substandard. Thankfully, it's not all that rare an event, and the short story collection "Malocclusion, tales of misdemeanor" by V.S. Kemanis was for me the latest of these discoveries.
Within her satisfying and even elegant collection of stories, Kemanis pulls off the difficult trick of imbuing the humdrum with a subliminal disquiet. These are not lurid tales, far from it, often drifting through domestic or other unremarkable settings (piano lessons, road trips in Wyoming, new neighbours, courtrooms, family secrets, bizarre love triangles, high school friends reuniting) like the first inklings of smoke from a distant room. But with a similar methodology to that of Ian McEwan, intimations of dread will sometimes grow and even loom closely while rarely materializing fully or for long, leaving the reader wondering whether anything occurred at all once the alarm has stopped ringing.
The effect of many of these sub/urban tales is simply unsettling. Told in a literate, lyrical style, they work their slow-burn voodoo and are gone again, never having overstayed their welcome, perfectly paced and brimming with mood and insight into our darker moments. Temptation, betrayal, envy, judgment, disappointment—all our less than noble characteristics are here. To pull them apart any more than this would be to spoil their impact, but I highly recommend these subtly memorable stories to anyone who likes to swim in the deceptively deep waters at the psychological end of literate crime/horror fiction.
I rarely give 5 Stars, reserving such a thing for stone-cold classics. And truth be told, this is more 4-and-a-half stars rounded up, if only due to the occasional typo or grammatical/spelling error—admittedly present here but by no means prevalent enough to distract attention from what is an excellent and rewarding collection of ambiguous stories by a writer who undeniably can write.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)