Salsa Nocturna

(English review by Bogdan Z.)

I'd like to start off by saying that I received this book as an advanced reader copy through goodread's givaways system, so I'd like to give my thanks to goodreads for the opportunity and to Crossed Genres Publications for sending me this copy from the US all the way to Romania.

I'd also like to mention that the number of books I've read in English (as opposed to translations in my mother tongue) is quite small, so I do apologize if I seem overly enthusiastic about some of the things I'll talk about in this review.

Now, if I were to summarize what this book is about from a standoff-ish point of view, I would say that Salsa Nocturna is a story made up of several (somewhat) intertwining events (or short stories) taking place in a New York City that, unknowingly to most of the living, is also shared by the dead and other supernatural beings and who's main character is a half-dead agent/detective who cracks up several otherworldly cases.

However, standoff-ish is too safe for my taste, so I'd like to go through some of the more tasty details that really bring the music to this "salsa".

And I really meant it when I said music. To me, every one of these single stories is like a cool tune that starts off in a steady, melancholic and low key rhythm of a blues, then jazzes up the mood with some well placed beats and chords and finally goes all funky, wrecking tear-jerking havoc. It’s not all the same, of course. Each story has it’s own distinct song.

Carlos is our main guy - he's a puerto rican, ex-brown, now gray-skinned, half-dead, ice-cool, rock-steady, street-savvy and, to my surprise, a bit love-struck (out) agent working for the Council of the Dead (COD), an organisation that supposedly keeps tabs on the affairs of the former living. Carlos is the guy who gets sent out on the nastier jobs that require skill and finesse and that one thing that none of the floatsy see-through ghosts in the COD have - an actual tangible presence in the world of the living. Each and every time I was reading his monologue passages, I always got that vibe you get when watching a noir movie where the detective is walking around some dark alleys, talking about his deepest, darkest feelings.

Around him revolves a cast of well shaped characters, some dead, such as his ghostly partner, the kind of guy that always makes bad jokes that everyone loves, a gun-wielding teenager girl who's the top hunter of the COD (who also wields a spirit shattering bazooka!) and some living characters as well, like a huge cuban to whom children, both alive and not, get strangely attached to, or a kid who got mixed up with a soul sucking granny and ended up being able to see the dead. I won’t say anything more about them because i really don’t want to ruin your getting to know them, but trust me when i say this, every bit of info the author feeds you about the characters is like a drop of honey in an otherwise very tasty dessert.

Aside from the cool mood and cool characters, there’s one last and perhaps most important treat that Daniel J. Older brings to his work and what i am referring to is, of course, the skillfully written dialogue. Because of it, his characters come alive in ways i didn’t think existed. You can practically see them talking to each other, you can hear what they are saying and the way they are saying it, you can notice their specific accents. You’re just there, in the middle of it all. It’s what caught my attention ever since the beginning and what kept me glued to it till the end.

But speaking of the end, there is one thing that I really did not like about Salsa Nocturna. The buildup of the combined stories is extraordinary, but it’s just that. Just the buildup. There’s no conclusion to it. There’s no final chapter. There’s no end. The story simply stops when the real action was just about to start.
Even so, it’s still a well worth read, but unless the story will be finished in the future, all i’m left with is the feeling that it could have been grand.

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