cover image The Stones Are Singing

The Stones Are Singing

R.B. Russell. Tartarus, $20 (160p) ISBN 978-1-786360-24-3

“Decay, romantic and morbid, is at the heart of [Venice], and has to be embraced,” muses John Dowson, the narrator of Russell’s expertly orchestrated weird tale. A series of odd events begins with Dowson, an English musician living in Venice who’s scoring a film project, discovering a jacket left on his balcony belonging to someone unknown to him named Orville Smith. Soon afterward, an old college acquaintance shows up searching avidly for a woman who, it turns out, is pictured in a photograph in Smith’s jacket pocket. When Dowson’s director visits and films from his apartment window, he captures ghostly images of an individual who wasn’t visible at the time he shot the footage. Then Dowson returns home one day to discover that his apartment has mysteriously moved from the middle to the top floor of his building. Meanwhile, Dowson nurses a head injury from a fall, which could explain some of the bizarre experiences, and that possibility enhances the overall strangeness of events as they build to an even stranger conclusion. Russell (Bloody Baudelaire) perfectly balances his tale’s incidents, each of which is innocuous on its own but suggestively ominous when intertwined with the rest. The well-wrought ending bears out its narrator’s observation that strange stories of this sort “were all very well for entertainment purposes, but verifiable evidence of them would be too alarming.” (Dec.)