Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older

Daniel Jose Older is a paramedic by day and a jazz artist by night and certainly a writer by calling. His gorgeous collection of 13 stories are scary and tender, sexy and insidious, and each one is a gem. In Tenderfoot we’re introduced to Carlos, his half dead soulcatcher who works for the Council of the Dead and cannot remember anything about his former life. There’s a killer ghost on the loose, but it’s unlike anything Carlos has ever dealt with. Tenderfoot is very unique, and heartbreaking in a gentle, bittersweet way. It’s certainly one of my favorites in the collection.

In Salsa Nocturna, we meet Gordo, his portly jazz musician and protector of the city’s children. He’s been put on night duty at a non-profit care facility for emotionally challenged children, and when he starts hearing the music of the dead, he grows concerned for the children, and for good reason. This one is lilting and sweet, and I’d be shocked if you didn’t fall in love with Gordo like I did.

In Skin Like Porcelain Death we meet Jimmy, a teenager who has a 6th sense and realizes that his new girlfriend (and her doll collection), may not be what she seems. Carlos has to come to his rescue, which leads to a new, and not unwelcome, partnership for Carlos. This one sets the perfect tone if you’re in the mood for something especially creepy.

Magdalena was another of my favorites, and in it we meet Krys, another COD employee who carries a very large weapon and isn’t afraid to use it. She’s tasked with taking down someone she once loved who plans to take revenge on the man that wronged her in the most terrible way. Haunting and heartbreaking, this one will stick with you.

In The Passing, an ancient collector of stories feels something may be wrong with an old friend, and enlists the help of a young man who may be of more help to her than she ever imagined. The Passing is delicate, exhilerating, and sweet.

These are just a few highlights and each story takes place in the same world where ghosts roam the streets and the soulcatchers of the COD hunt their quarry. Ghost noir, indeed! By the time you reach the end of the book, all of the characters have come together at various points and it’s safe to say that there are some that aren’t happy with how the COD does business.

There’s plenty of ghostly ass kicking and I consistently marveled at the author’s inventiveness. Urban fantasy fans will love this, as well of fans of just plain excellent writing. His prose is just beautiful and if it seems like this whole review is a gushfest, it kind of is. Daniel José Older captures all of the dark recesses of the human heart and puts them to the page, all the while capturing the blinding light of the human spirit. Salsa Nocturna broke my heart, captivated me, and elated me in equal turns and my only complaint is that it ended. You’ll savor every word, then you’ll most likely read it again, because it’s flawless. Put this one on your holiday list and buy copies for your friends. I can’t think of a better gift to give a reader than this wonderful collection.