Note: I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Allen and Unwin!
You know a book is going to be good when the title of it is: “Death or Ice Cream?”. And damn, this book is good! (Actually, if you go to Goodreads, you can see that it’s included in a list of books titled: “Book titles that give you no choice but to check out the books.” Which also includes books like: “No-One Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday“, “One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies” and “The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil”. Instant TBR material.)
I’ve found that Death or Ice Cream? fit’s under the “dark humour” genre, and by “dark humour”, I really do mean “dark humour”. At times, I almost feel bad for laughing at the book. Almost.
Death or Ice Cream? is a collection of short stories that isn’t a collection of short stories. All of the chapters are set in the same setting, but are completely different stories with different characters. And I say “a collection of short stories that isn’t a collection of short stories” because all the stories slowly start to paint a big picture, even though they seem separate.
One of the aspects of this book that I enjoyed the most was the interlocking of the stories. It is the most incredibly satisfying thing in the world when an author introduces a previously known character in a story that is different from what they first appeared in, and from the perspective of a different character.
It’s like when an author does a cameo in the movie adaptation of their book (like John Green in TFIOS) or when you’re reading a completely different book by the author and you come across a character that has the same name as the character from one of the author’s other books.
Death or Ice Cream? does this, but basically in a glorious little bundle of 250 pages. The main character of chapter one will suddenly appear as a casual bystander in chapter six, or maybe the main character in chapter four becomes the friend of the main character in chapter eight! It’s incredibly delightful to see a character that you already know pop up in a different story.
Death or Ice Cream? could probably be described in one word as an “oddity”. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever come across before. It’s beautifully written – except for the chapters in the first person where it felt a little disjointed – and the incredible creativity of Mr Jones is actually borderline genius. The way a tale that appeared in chapter one will seamlessly weave in with a tale in chapter nine is an absolute pleasure to read.
And then, as if the dark humour wasn’t good enough already, this morbidly delightful story has magic realism as well! Anybody who knows me knows that I love, love, love, love magic realism, and the magic realism in Death or Ice Cream? is written so amazingly, I just need to flail.
In conclusion, I’m going to say that if you haven’t read this book, you are an organic durian fruit. And nobody likes an organic durian fruit. So you should definitely read it. To avoid being a durian fruit, I mean 😛
But seriously though. This book is strangely compellingly morbid. READ IT.
Larkin Mills: The Birthplace of Death!
Larkin Mills is no ordinary town. It’s a place of contradictions and enigma, of secrets and mysteries. A place with an exquisite ice cream parlour, and an awful lot of death.
An extraordinary mystery in Larkin Mills is beginning to take shape. First we meet the apparently healthy Albert Dance, although he’s always been called a sickly child, and he’s been booked into Larkin Mills’ Hospital for Specially Ill Children. Then there’s his neighbour Ivor, who observes strange goings-on, and begins his own investigations into why his uncle disappeared all those years ago. Next we meet Young Olive, who is given a battered accordion by her father, and unwittingly strikes a dreadful deal with an instrument repair man.
Make sure you keep an eye on Mr Morricone, the town ice-cream seller, who has queues snaking around the block for his legendary ice cream flavours Summer Fruits Suicide and The Christmas Massacre. And Mr Milkwell, the undertaker, who has some very dodgy secrets locked up in his hearse. Because if you can piece together what all these strange folks have to do with one another . . . well, you’ll have begun to unlock the dark secrets that keep the little world of Larkin Mills spinning . . .