By Book Review Correspondent Carly Neely
How nice is it to read a collection of stories about a Caribbean island and have it not talk about rum punches and idle days spent lounging on a beach in a careless, unblemished paradise? It’s very nice. Truly, it’s my favorite thing about Storm Warning by E.A. O’Neal. I want action, intrigue, and complex character dynamics in every book of fiction that I read. This collection of short stories places the residents of fictitious island of St. Crescens front and center and the grit of their situations is not washed away by a dreamy backdrop. We witness a myriad of individuals struggling to pursue their desires, some resorting to crime, others becoming the victims of it.
Half of the stories are tight slices of storytelling, glancing into lives that are haunted or marred by “something not quite right.” The very first story, “Storm Warning” and later with “The Righteous Ones” treat the reader to that queasy feeling of dread that crime fiction lovers long to feel. It immediately reminded me of the work of Dan Chaon’s short stories, Stay Awake, whose imagery also stayed with me late into the night. I would lay awake restlessly wondering if there was really maliciousness in a person’s face or whether it was a projection of guilt or just a passing shadow which could have explained away and avoided a gruesome fate. Was Shirley’s husband aware of her suspicious activities or was it just the air of tension in a community preparing for a coming storm? “Storm Warning” offers a look into the lengths one may go to pursue a dream while “The Righteous Ones” has an unnerving tale of a man’s missionary service gone awry.