|Cover photography |
by Nicholas Royle
Nightjar Press, October 2020
Available as: PB, 19pp
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
I'm grateful to Nightjar Press for a signed copy of The Red Suitcase to consider for review, together with other short stories published alongside it.
The Red Suitcase is a delightfully poised short story, exquisitely observed and so, so sharp. The book itself is also attractively designed the series overall one I'd strongly recommend.
Dougie and his mother make a little extra money by renting out a room in their cottage to summer visitors. They live in, literally, a dead-end town by the sea: bus once a week, railway closed years ago, there is a sense of entrapment in this story, of going nowhere. The relationship between Dougie - a grown man in, I think, middle age - and his mother seems over close, her fussing over his digestion, endlessly offering antacid pills and asking if he is "costive".
The arrival of B, the woman with that red suitcase, doesn't exactly disturb this relationship - that would be far too much a cliché, and too unlikely - but it does, perhaps, cast a light on it and give Dougie a few days in which things are not as usual. B is a strange visitor at a strange time of year - it is Winter, not Summer - and she seems to draw out a strangeness in Dougie, too. Her having arrived in his life, he studies and considers her. There's an air of mystery to her - why is she here, how did she find the place, what is she doing? - which isn't resolved, but a sense we aren't seeing the whole picture (perhaps because Dougie isn't exactly looking in the right places?)
Perfectly captured by the cover image, in which we don't whether we are observing or being observed from the lonely house at night, this is a book of mood and isolation, the nameless little town appearing almost as a world to itself which is infrequently visited and where nobody (even the "hardy young women" of Summer) ever stays. There are plenty of secrets here, in a story that may be short, but makes an impact.
For more information about The Red Suitcase and to order a copy, please see the Nightjar Press website here.