Forensic Songs is Mike McCormack's second short story collection, as well as having written two novels. His first collection was chosen as New York Times Notable Book of the Year. This new collection of twelve short stories has an enigmatic title and an attractive fly-fishing hook design cover by Graham Thew.
The fly-fishing hook design explains itself in the first story, 'The Last Thing We Need'. A sergeant due to retire in two months and his young side-kick, with just two months under his belt discuss a case of a non-written memoir and how to deal with it. The conversation, beautifully captured between the two characters, is one of the old guard passing on his advice to the younger, with deviations at times on the theme of fly-fishing.
In 'The Great Lad', a returning brother (thought dead the last seven years) brings back past resentments and memories. This returning emigre theme continues into another story 'The Man From God Knows Where' and several stories carry links to the Irish working in England . A strange scenario is played out in 'There is a Game Out There', a prisoner brought to a room at night and asked to test play a computer game and in 'Beyond' a woman appears to lose touch with reality.
McCormack has great observation of character, the things that annoy us about each other and the aspects of human weakness. There is nowhere to hide when these stories are being told, revealing things to the reader that they may uncomfortably identify with and other stories that are just plain obscure. Short stories, as I have mentioned in this blog recently, seem to be having a renaissance and with writing of this standard it's not hard to see why.
Forensic Songs is published by The Lilliput Press
Cover illustration www.grahamthew.com