After his extraordinary debut collection 'Open the Box' I was looking
forward to Andrew Humphrey’s second volume of short stories and
at last, five years later, here it is. 'Other Voices' comes from the
same publisher (the excellent UK imprint Elastic Press), shows the same
ability to move through different genres (crime, SF, urban horror etc),
and, more importantly, is of the same high quality.
The present collection assembles twelve stories where Humphrey manages
to entertain, scare, move, thrill and make the reader ponder on the
many aspects of the human condition. A recurrent theme in many of the
stories is the intricacy of interpersonal relations. Fine examples are
the excellent 'Old Wounds' depicting the truth, the difficulties and
the pain of the relationship between man and woman, and the interesting
but less convincing 'War Stories'. 'Butter Wouldn’t Melt' is another
well-written story revolving around betrayals. Humphrey probes the many
aspects of marriage failure, conveying a subtle sense of gloom and bleakness.
Private matters and politics are effectively mixed in 'Grief Inc.',
a SF piece describing a future world ruled by a stern Council, where
a man endowed with the ability of curing people from grief discovers
the value of caring for others. The title story, 'Other Voices', is
the merciless portrait of a spaced out cop haunted by a past that never
was, while 'Tilt' is the icy description of the crisis of a married
couple in a world in a state of chaos.
The compelling 'Think of a Number' provides a disturbing view of child
abuse (with the victim finally taking his revenge) and the splendid
'Holding Pattern' offers an accomplished analysis of how a man experiences
a progressive collapse of the surrounding reality. In 'Three Days,'
the abduction of a little girl alters the precarious balance in the
parents’ marriage. Her return puts things back in order, but not
To me the best tale in the volume is 'Strawberry Hill', an outstanding
piece graced by a great characterization, in which an episode from the
past still haunting two former friends is brought into the open by a
curious wife. 'Other Voices' reconfirms Humphrey as one of the best
new British writers, a solid storyteller with a knack for describing
reality with a clear mind , showing a deep insight of human frailties.