What’s Candia all about?:
A young man on holiday in Candia spies a former colleague outside a bar and after the two re-connect our narrator finds out the true meaning of being trapped in a town.
What did I think?:
I’ve found the short stories in this collection by Graham Joyce to be a bit hit and miss (apart from the wonderful Leningrad Nights) so I’m afraid I didn’t go into this story with much expectation. However I was delighted to find this eerie little tale fascinating and it reinforced my belief in the power of this author’s writing. The story begins with our narrator arriving on holiday in Candia and happening upon his former work colleague, Ben Wheeler who appears to be drowning his sorrows outside a bar. Ben doesn’t appear to be happy upon seeing our narrator and in fact, can’t really place where he knows him from.
As for our narrator, he knows Ben very well. They met when both working at Aid Direct, a charity where Ben was the big cheese enjoying the high life, women and champagne although not necessarily in that order. Then it came about that the charity wasn’t er… exactly being charitable and a lot of the money was going into the directors own pockets rather than for food boxes to desperate countries. Ben was asked to leave immediately but before he does, he meets our narrator in a lift and by throwing some cash at him, persuades him to ask a woman in his department to meet him in the stationary cupboard. Our narrator is perfectly honest in that he agreed to do this partially out of spite as he had himself been knocked back by that woman before, but he isn’t proud of himself for doing it, especially when the woman appears back on the office floor, visibly distressed and angry.
Back to the present day and our narrator is slightly worried about Ben. He looks terrible, smells worse, there is a haunted look in his eye and he believes that he cannot leave the town. When our narrator persuades him to join him for dinner as it his his birthday, Ben visibly brightens up and insists that they go to a place called The Shades Club. He believes it should be open as the first and only time he visited it was also his birthday. So, this is all I’m going to say on the plot as to say anything else would spoil the story horribly for anyone who hasn’t read it. All I will say is that after our narrator visits the club he begins to understand why Ben cannot leave Candia.
I loved this story! Graham Joyce reels you in slowly and methodically until you’re left squirming on that hook wondering what on earth happened. It turned into something that I definitely wasn’t expecting and I was both surprised and a little bit repelled at the turn it took, so much that I instantly went back to the beginning and read it again to see if I could pick up the trail of breadcrumbs the author leaves us. It has left such an impression on me that I’m certain I’m going to be thinking about it for a while and for me, ranks up there with his greatest work. Thank you Graham Joyce for restoring my faith in your brilliant (and creepy) writing!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories