Robert Shearman's second collection of short stories maintains the high quality of 'Tiny Deaths', offering nineteen new tales based around the theme of love. The stories are a beguiling mix of the mundane and fantastic, with Shearman populating the most bizarre scenarios with realistic and believable characters. The author's touch is also light when it comes to the prose, with a deceptively straightforward writing style that only serves to highlight the intensity of the sudden plot twists or intrusions of the bizarre. The result is rather like being led into a back alley by the friendliest of teddy bears, only to find oneself visciously mugged and beaten moments later.
Despite the theme there's nothing cosy about this book, with heartbreak and painful consquences being more prevalent than romantic fulfilment. There is also plenty of humour however, albeit usually of the blackest variety. I don't really want to talk about the specifics of any of the stories themeslves, because to do so would rob the reader of the suprises in store. Suffice to say, 'Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical' is amusing, horrifying and frequently affecting, all at the same time.