Cover Image: Hangdog Souls

Hangdog Souls

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Hangdog Souls is a set of loosely linked short stories set in India, specifically Mysore and often around the city of Ooty. The stories all all  in some way connected to the first, a tale of a British exile hiding, pretending to be Portuguese until the British attack. In this he does a deal with the local leader to move his family and his crop of Eucalyptus Trees to safety - but pays a high price for the deal. Its very well observed and has a creeping horror subtext that plays out into actual horror, and a twist into the supernatural which I didn't expect. The rest of the book broadly doubles down on this twist,

There is a lot to like in Hangdog Souls, but the greatest compliment I can pay it is that it reminded me, particularly in the the more tart stories, of M.R.James. In a lot of these cases people go to unknown places, get embroiled with something strange or mildly spooky (get get to be aware of ranting only people who might be British), and things take a turn. Though for Joan, the devil is replaced by aspects of colonialism, and/or the British, there is also plenty to be said about Dravidian spiritualism. As a collection of shorts it does a good job at throwing characters and archetypes, and in some cases styles at us, sketching historical actors and more contemporary sketches of Indian Middle Class. There is even a proper sci-fi horror here in a search within particle physics which leads to a more cosmic take on the themes of the story.

Hangdog Souls surprised me with how coherent it was both as a collection of shorts, and thematically. There is a question returned to about how you weigh a life, both in saving another, and your own. But there are also some wonderfully choice bits of writing too - the three pages on the preparation of a hangman's rope is delightfully macabre, Well worth a read if the idea of Indian set, century spanning M.R.James tickles your fancy.
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A mad book. Dark and sad but rewarding.
Such a tragic story but one you'll never forget and are ale to learn so much from.
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