Mayra Calvani, The Last Dinosaurs (Amber Quill Press, 2004)
It’s pretty hard to be an Internet-enabled, or even Internet-aware, book geek these days and not know the name of Mayra Calvani, a Puerto Rican author now residing in Belgium who’s a regular contributor to Blogcritics. I knew she’d written a few books, but had never got round to reading one, so I decided to rectify that problem with The Last Dinosaurs. I found it enjoyable enough, though it did try to do too much in too confined a space for it to be as effective as it wanted to be.
Plot: Daniella is an architecture student living with her boyfriend and her cat in a small apartment. The two of them are still friends with Daniella’s much older ex, Ismail, now married to the predatory seductress nicknamed Lady Dracula and in the process of opening a hotel stocked with exotic animals he’s having smuggled in from other countries. Daniella finds herself struggling to deal with Tony’s increasing drug use, attempts by both Ismail and his wife to seduce her, weekly lunches with her mother and, to top it all off, a masked character stalking the streets at night and attacking women wearing miniskirts.
All of which doesn’t sound like a comedy, but that was Calvani’s chosen genre here. Main genre, anyway. The book also tries to delve into mystery, supernatural horror, political satire, and thriller territory. A tall order for a book running three times the length of this one, an impossible task here. Still, what’s here is amusing enough, if it feels more like an outline than a full novel, and Calvani’s narrative voice is engaging and fun; this wasn’t quite a success, but it shows enough potential to bring me back for more the next time I get a chance. ** ½