Purchase on Amazon.
Synopsis via Goodreads: Discover the mystery of the two-headed rose and many more Strange Secrets in this new collection of extraordinary stories by Mike Russell. ‘It can’t be real.’ ‘But it is.’ Strange Secrets invites you to discover the magical and the marvellous. Startlingly inventive and constantly entertaining, these unique, vital and vividly realised stories will take you to places you have never been before. Strange Secrets is Mike Russell’s third short-story collection.
I’d like to thank the publisher Strange Books for a complimentary copy of Mike Russell’s short story collection Strange Secrets in exchange for an honest review.
I’m gonna be honest, I’m not entirely sure where to begin.
Mike Russell’s short story collection Strange Secrets is what I imagine René Magritte and Salvador Dali’s fever dreams might have looked like in a written format. I know the title has ‘strange’ written right in it, but I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Strange Secrets contains seven short stories of varying length and theme all exploring situations with a dream-like and surreal quality. While the subject of each story changes throughout, the entire collection has a strange and disturbing air about it. I was constantly entertained while being simultaneously deeply unsettled. Russel’s very matter-of-fact dialogue and straightforward narrative structure paired with extremely odd and obscure subjects helped him achieve this impressive and enjoyable effect. I honestly felt like I had to come up for air in between each story.
A particular aspect of Strange Secrets that I wanted to highlight is Russell’s amazing ability to paint such vivid imagery in so few words. At the onset of each story, I felt completely transported into Russell’s bizarre world that appeared on the surface to be so familiar and ordinary. I’m having a difficult time thinking of another author today who can achieve the same type of discomfort and mystery in their writing.
The only reason I didn’t rate Russell’s Strange Secrets with 5 stars was the first story in the collection, The Constantly Empty Pool, felt a bit weaker than the stories that followed. The rest of the collection, however, especially Missing Persons, was an absolute (unsettling) joy to read. I recommend this book to anyone looking for an experimental and surreal read by an extremely talented and unique author. I’m looking forward to reading more from Russell in the future and seeing where his writing career takes him.
[As a side note: I have absolutely no idea how to categorise this book so I’m throwing it under my ‘fantasy’ and ‘horror’ tags, but it seems to be in a league of its own so take this with a grain of salt!]