Dario Cannizzaro’s narrator Louis, the protagonist of Dead Men Naked (available at Amazon), loses his best friend Neil in a bizarre, seemingly hallucinogenic near-remote attack from an attic window as they stand in the same room, by Lou’s neighbour and a giant crow. Given the tequila and other substances taken, it is difficult to determine what exactly occurred through the narrator’s eyes. But Louis comes round the following morning worse-for-wear; he finds his friend’s body, realises that what happened was no dream, and summons the authorities to the scene.
Strange beginnings complement a funeral where Neil’s parents end up consoling him as much as vice versa. On the trip, while Lou drowns his sorrows, he meets Mallory at a nearby, not-so-nearby dive, and begins an exploration of the spirit world. The journey is a theme in this novel, the roadside scenery described with a vivid and subtle poetry throughout. Also beautifully captured are aspects relationships – for instance, lifelong friendship.
The idea that you can fall out with or fall away from childhood friends for a number of years, and revert back to that same friendship that will always be there, serves to fortify Lou’s sense of loss.
Also captured in the dreams within the novel are wonderfully subtle elements that are typical of our delta wave activities. The idea that you want to look at something, for instance, but you’re prevented from doing so by other factors that would be trivial in real life, is one detail that stood out.
There are aspects that have echoes of movies such as the Guillermo del Toro-produced The Orphanage, or even the more mainstream The Sixth Sense. The reader can take things a number of ways. Knowing what’s real and what’s not in this novel is not an issue, perhaps because knowing isn’t all that important. One can assume that the author expects a little reader interpretation.
Let it wash over you. It’s the kind of work that stays with you, and you can digest it long after you have read the final page.