Set a Crow to Catch a Crow


“These are stories that pulse with transformation, visceral, lush, and sound-rich. In Holmes’ lyrically-charged short fictions, worlds tilt, horizons thrum and yearnings come unmoored, and the language pulls us close to the bloodstream of her characters, feeling for their pressure-points, their broken wings. Their land and homescapes leap to life around them, set alight by breath-catching images that bind us into the textures and electrons of each scene, skin and earth, creek, board and bone. Each brief diorama in this volume delivers us a ‘quivering glint’ of characters caught in slipstream instants, lingering on the verge of fission, or hauled into ‘dark runnels of the heart’ where currents of longing and threat inescapably converge. Holmes’ writing rubs the fibres of life between our fingers, so we feel its restlessness and wonder.” Tracey Slaughter 

“The stories that fill Mary-Jane Holmes’ Set a Crow to Catch a Crow are perfect, precise, highly burnished narrative shards that describe a moment in time but imply both what came before this moment and very likely may come after. It might only be a grain you are offered but you get a whole world. It is only writing of a very high order can pull off the feat that is pulled off here.” Carlo Gébler 

Set a Crow to Catch a Crow is very textured and very liminal. 

ISBN: 978-1-8380488-4-6
36 pages
R.R.P. £6.50



Eithne was spiking mole runs with hawthorn stakes when the postman arrived with a package.
    “Addressed to Eros,” he said, aiming the scanner at the barcode.
    “Like the god?” she asked, watching the wink of the laser’s red eye.
    The postman shrugged. 
    “Only me here now, Tom.” 
    They both looked at the house, its cracked gutters, the bluebottle carcasses lining the windowsills.
    “I can return it to the depot,” Tom said, as a ripple of soil erupted by the back tyre of his van. A pink snout sniffed the air, then disappeared.
    She took the box. No weight to it or return address, no rattle or slide of contents when shook.
    Back in the pantry, she put it between the Oxo cubes and baking soda, the only place in the building dry and vermin-free.
    She picked up the cuttings again, crouched by the fresh mound of earth. She chose a stem with the thickest thorns, noticing then the buds still intact, the rose-flush of the petals just showing. She ran her index finger over them, smooth as fur. She went back to the pantry, picked out a pickle jar, filled it with water, dusted the windowsill and set the stems on the ledge. The water caught the pale flash of spring sunlight. Time I spruced the place up a bit, she thought, pulling each stake from where she’d placed it that morning, scanning the road for a quivering glint of a vehicle, hope lighting the dark runnels of her heart. 


"[...] The characters are sympathetically drawn. Mary-Jane Holmes knows how to give a reader sufficient detail to understand a character’s motives but also trusting readers to build their own pictures of who the characters are and their relationships to each other. With minimal sketches each story is fleshed out to not only convey the characters’ lives but also their histories and their futures. The stories explore complex issues, poverty, keeping a family together, keeping relationships going or fresh starts and the fear of beginning again. The decoys are dispatched effectively: some characters are lying to themselves: believing they know what the problem is and not willing to listen and understand the actual problem. Sometimes the decoys lure the character to acknowledge and resolve their problem. The stories in “Set a Crow to Catch a Crow” reward re-reading."

Emma Lee, full review here.

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