The advice for musicians compiling an album – open with your strongest track, knock them out with a killer – can also be applied to short-story collections. If an author’s opening tale doesn’t strike and stun the reader, why should they continue? With her slim debut collection, Vanessa Onwuemezi both has and hasn’t followed the advice. The first story, ‘Dark Neighbourhood’, is strong all right, but strong in the sense of ripe, or full of weird power; and it’s as maddening as it is satisfying.
Plenty of readers may bail upon trying to make sense of the story’s murky world. ‘What’s it all for?’ asks one character, to which another responds, ‘We’re not supposed to ask ourselves that.’ But we can say this: we appear to be in an enclosed community where people