This post is part of a blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘A deadly feast, a mobster restaurant and a family get-together with fatal results.
‘Savour the spicy tang of dark and twisted tales in Pass the Cyanide, a follow-up to the award-winning collection of culinary mysteries, Add Cyanide to Taste.
‘From an old friend hiding a deadly secret to a ravenous house with an appetite for friends, Špiljak masterfully blends the allure of food and the thrill of mystery. Each story is a rich and satisfying serving of crime, with a twist that will leave you wanting more.
‘A must-read for fans of culinary noir and foodies who love a pinch of danger with their suspense. All recipes included are cyanide-free.’
Pass the Cyanide, by Karmen Špiljak, brings together eight distinct short stories sharing a common theme: food.
The title may suggest that poison is central to many of the pieces, but the author casts her net far wider.
While an unauthorised extra ingredient is at the heart of two of the stories – Ernest’s Choice and Sweet Darkness – the collection also encompasses consumption by hungry non-human entities, and kitchens/dining rooms as locations for murder and other crimes.
Both of the poison-themed stories are centred around revenge, a secondary theme that also features in (unsurprisingly) A Little Revenge and Seventeen Minutes, a pair of stories in which characters get back at unsatisfactory partners.
In Seventeen Minutes and Sweet Darkness in particular, it’s fun and satisfying to watch unpleasant people get their comeuppance.
We also often see characters who are “in too deep” turn to desperate methods of self-preservation, and this makes Ernest’s Choice, A Stroke of Luck, and The Secret Sauce especially gripping.
I additionally appreciated the Serbian setting of A Stroke of Luck, and the Brazilian setting of Seventeen Minutes.
My personal favourite stories in Pass the Cyanide, though, were those with a supernatural vibe.
In The Feast, married couple Finn and Dee find themselves politely trapped on a weekend stay at the country mansion of Finn’s old friend, Eric.
It turns out Eric needs to consume something unconventional to stay alive and, as with many of the other pieces in this collection, your first thought isn’t necessarily the correct one! Let’s just say, if Eric needed an income, a job as a hospital chaplain would suit him perfectly.
Marcel, meanwhile, is an imaginative and enjoyably creepy tale about a lonely house that hungers for people.
Pass the Cyanide is an entertaining and eclectic short story collection.