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Book Review, Sweet Song by Tirina Simons April 2014

Book Review:

Sweet Song of the Siren by William Peskett

(reviewed by Tirina Simons)

Writing short stories is a challenging feat. To the novice, it may seem that shorter stories would be easier to write because fewer words are used. But that actually makes them more difficult. Just like a novel, the short story must have a clear believable plot, proper character development and a sequence of events that makes sense.

Sweet Song of the Siren is a collection of short stories written by William Peskett. As a writer myself, I naturally critique a body of work while I read it. I noticed three key elements that are consistent throughout these stories:

  1. Peskett uses a bit of humour in his writing,
  2. the sequence of events always incorporates a twist in the plot and
  3. each storyline is different from the one before.

writing short storiesPeskett uses a bit of humour to grab the reader's attention. In one story, two hikers run into a group of monkeys along a trail. They begin to chat about the monkeys, making jokes in front of them. One hiker asks one of the monkeys a silly question trying to make his companion laugh. To the surprise of them both, the monkey not only understands what is being asked but answers back! How is it that these monkeys can talk? One perturbed female monkey goes on to educate them about how closely their species is to that of humans. So why wouldn't they be able to talk? And why do we call ourselves human "beings" like we are some type of entity that doesn't know its own identity. Other monkeys join in, expressing their pent up irritations that have been building over the years toward inconsiderate "walkers". They also complain about always being thrown bananas. Apparently these monkeys like watermelon and papayas and would even appreciate some Durian now and again. Go figure!

Each story contains a slight twist in the plot. This twist always comes as a welcome surprise, causing great interest in discovering how things will work out in the end. In one story, a man receives a note in his mailbox written in a language he can't read. With help from a friend, he realizes that it’s actually a ransom note regarding his wife who had recently gone on a religious retreat to the temple. As the plot unravels, he begins to piece together the identity of this body snatcher-someone he knows very well. On the other side of this scenario, his wife is unharmed but quite upset that people she thought she knew well would do such a despicable act in an attempt to land a big payday.

Another intriguing element of these well written stories is the diversity of storyline. This diversity also helps to hold the attention of the reader. In one story, the main character, a writer, goes on a movie date with his wife. As the opening credits roll, he notices his name mentioned as the writer of the book the movie is based on. As the movie continues, he doesn't recognize any familiar plot. He is too consumed by the obvious failure of the script writers in their conversion from print to film. And furthermore, he wonders, where are his royalties! He later speaks to his close friends about the situation. They look at him quite strangely. Has their friend gone mad? They regretfully remind him of a painful event of the past, an event they can't believe he has forgotten.

In yet another story, a private investigator sets out to solve the case of a missing child. The case had been handed over to him by his partner, whose son was dying of a critical illness. The investigation takes the main character from an abandoned house in a small soi in Pattaya, to a grand two-storey dwelling by the reservoir. He is then sent to an international boarding school outside Bangkok. What has happened to this boy? The answer reveals a sad reality, but the cause is even the more sad.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of short stories. In just a few pages at a time, William Peskett takes the reader through the lives of very different characters with very different issues. With surprise twists and humorous story dialogue, Sweet Song of the Sirenis a great read.

The book is available in print from Canterbury Tales bookshop in Soi Chaiyapoon, Star Books in Soi Khao Noi and as an e-book via or