(Cloud Lodge) by Orlando Ortega-Medina

A collection of 13 eclectic works of dark fiction which takes the reader from Los Angeles to the eastern townships of Quebec, and from Tokyo to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem’s Old City a young priest and a dominatrix converse in the dying light; on Oregon’s windswept coast a fragile woman discovers a body washed up on the beach after a storm; and in post-war Japan a young protégé watches his master’s corpse burn, with bitter thoughts blazing in his mind. Ortega-Medina’s characters are flawed, broken individuals, trying their best to make sense of their lives as they struggle with sexuality, death, obsession and religion. His prose is vibrant, twisting in the dark like tango dancers illuminated by lightning, sometimes sensual, occasionally terrifying, always stylish. His capturing of mood and attitude in a sentence is superb and this debut offers up the delight of his mind as it cavorts around the crepuscular avenues of his imagination. There’s a touch of humour in these stories but overall the tone is dark, aggressive, full of shadow and unexpected finds, like a beach during a storm. He explores themes of loneliness and escape of facing demons and finding lost loves but the overarching theme is the unpredictability of death and its strident proclamation of the passions of the living. A tremendous dichotomy of a read and a real page-turner.