Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. While I make every attempt to avoid spoilers, please be aware that an ARC synopsis, press release, or review request may disclose details that are not revealed in the published cover blurb.
First up this month is Mercedes M. Yardley, and author with whom I was already familiar, but who I got to know a little better during a Ragnarok Publications Facebook party last month. We connected over fiction and music, and she was kind enough to send a copy of Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love my way.
Let me just say that this is some of the darkest stuff I've read in a long while. It's daring, original, and manages to accomplish what so many other authors and filmmakers have failed to do. It makes an antagonist of a victim and keeps her at the forefront of the entire novel, with nary a protagonist in sight. It's a risky move, and one that most stories cannot sustain, but Yardley weaves in enough backstory and character development to make her serial killers sympathetic leads. That's not to say they're necessarily likable or characters to whom we can relate, but she forces us to understand them and their motives.
This is a crime drama, a love story, and a tale of supernatural myth and magic. It's a book that operates on multiple levels, but which has no patience for easing the reader through unnecessary transitions. There's no one point at which it shifts from crime drama to love story, just as there's no single instance where Montessa shifts from victim to killer. As for the myth and the magic, it's there throughout, but so subtle and fantastic that you're never quite sure when you stopped questioning just much is supernatural and how much is allegory or illusion.
It's a seriously messed up world where a victim's love for her killer is more beautiful and pure than a father's love for his child, but that's precisely the world in which we live. When abuse and neglect are found where love should be, how inconceivable is it that love is found where it shouldn't? Yardley really plays with that idea, and uses it to explore who Montessa and Lulu really are, and how they came to be. It's a brutal, bloody, violent tale, full of sorrow and pain, but it's also one redeemed by the presence of love. A lot of people die, in a lot of brutal ways, and the fondness for the act of murder may be too much for some readers to take, but it's all connected.
I will admit, I kept seeing flashes from Natural Born Killers in my head as I read this, but Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love trades the satire and the sensationalism for sentiment and sincerity. This is a story not of spectacle, but of spirit, and that intimacy (along with Yardley's almost-poetic narrative) is what makes it work.
Paperback, 174 pages
Published September 8th 2013 by Ragnarok Publications