Cate Gardner is one of my top three favorite writers along side Gary McMahon and G. R. Yeates. It's likely that you will see me review their work often on here. I have read three things by Gardner: Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits, Barbed Wire Hearts, and The Theatre of Curious Acts. All three were incredible, and I am always keeping one eye out on ebay for her chapbook Nowhere Hall from Spectral Press. The chapbook was limited to 100 signed and numbered copies, and sold out long ago.
Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits is a collection of short stories that are like being able to step into someone else's dream altered reality. Each story is unique, and each is as strong as the one before it. I don't come across very many collections where I really like every story in there, but that was the case here. The stories range from the sweet and whimsical to the macabre. There is one about an imaginary friend and one where a girl is trapped in a hospital room with strange visitors who keep dropping by. Each story will pull you immediately into whatever world Gardner is taking you to visit.
Barbed Wire Hearts is a novella, and it is about a live boy who is missing his heart and a dead girl with a beating one. They come to rely on each other in this dark tale of love and sacrifice. Gardner once again has used her skill to create a world that is as believable as it as it is magical.
The Theatre of Curious Acts is a short novel and Gardner's most ambitious. It is a very complex and layered story that is initially set in the trenches of WWI but quickly moves to another realm where we are introduced to the four horsewomen of the Apocalypse. It is up to Daniel to save mankind at the end of the world.
I don't like giving away too much of the plots for these books because for me, part of the magic of reading something by Gardner is discovering the layers of the stories as she presents them. It takes a tremendous amount of skill and imagination to pull off what she makes seem so effortless; I would recommend her books to any readers. Gardner's work will lead you down a path to the dark whimsical lands of her imagination. I highly recommend her work.
I give each of them five cocktails.