I FIRST became aware of Rejini Samuel’s work a couple of years ago when she began attending creative writing classes at GTI and, as a result, came along and read some poems and extracts from stories at an Over The Edge open-mic.
Even in those early efforts, it was obvious that she understood that good writing is not defined so much by the story that is being told as it is by the linguistic nuts and bolts of how it is told: the new metaphors and similes that surprise us along the way and make any story or poem its own new thing, rather than a derivative rehash of something that went before.
We all know people who could make a trip to the planet Neptune sound duller than a bus to Ballinasloe on a damp Saturday in October. Equally, there are those incapable of writing a shopping list without making it, in its own way, a work of art. Rejini Samuel is definitely one of the latter.
Her new novel Heart Stopper, published under the name RJ Samuel, by Create Space, defies categorisation. It is self-published, having first been published as an e-book, but is in a different universe, in terms of its absolute literary quality, from most self-published books, which tend to be rather shaky offerings.
The story is a murder mystery/medical drama with a lesbian love interest set at a recently opened and, it is important to say, entirely fictional pacemaker clinic here in Galway. It appears someone has been tampering with the pacemakers. Not a good situation, obviously.
The main protagonists are Priya, who works at the pacemaker clinic, and Reyna, the sister of the first person murdered as the mystery begins. The book is subdivided into 34 chapters of varying length – some no more than a page long - in addition to a prologue and epilogue.
Priya is dragged into the investigation into ‘what went wrong’ and uncovers secrets that could bring the whole house crashing down. She is, you get the feeling, one of those characters destined to end up at the centre of unexpected mysteries.
In the end, a love interest develops between the two main women characters, but this is only at the end of the longest and windiest of roads. This novel breaks barriers between genres. It is a medical drama, a murder mystery, and a love story, but it is so much more than any one of those. It is, more than anything else, a book of beautiful sentences.
Chapter Eight closes fantastically with “The night passed without any further sighting of the dark car and in silence apart from a restless sleep feathered with dreams of cats crying.”
Later, Samuel finishes Chapter 33 with elegant harshness “She thought she’d have three minutes before her brain stopped functioning but time flew when you were dying.”
The only place where this book lapses into cliché in on the back cover, where Heart Stopper is described as, you guessed it, “a real page turner”. It is so much more than that.
Heart Stopper will be launched at the May Over The Edge Writers’ Gathering at The Kitchen in The Galway City Museum on Wednesday May 9 at 8pm.