Darkly comic and highly entertaining, Javier Valdés's stories insinuate themselves in the unsuspecting reader like a heady brew with a strange kick. From the exploits of an urban vigilante to the erotic pleasures exacted from an unrequited love, from a menacing treasure to a family that brings a whole new twist to the meaning of neighbors, People Like Us is seasoned with irreverent takes on Valdés's favorite writers and directors -- such as Stephen King and Martin Scorsese -- as he delivers a unique array of fascinating and hapless urban creatures.
Mexican dentist-turned-author Vald s makes his English-language debut with six unremarkable forays into horror, erotic thriller and ghost tale. Vices are the true agents here, forcing themselves to the surfaces of the roughly drawn characters they inhabit. In the title story, a couple on a working weekend in the mountains discover a macabre cache of goods in their rented house; their greed sours the relationship. Lust drives the corruption of the Lotzano family in "Neighbors," and in "Flidia," a woman falls in love with her kidnapper because he pleases her as no man has done before. Delight in pure violence drives "Beat Me to Death," as protagonist Mateo illustrates the length to which one might go to feel alive. Vald s is interested in the changeability of the human psyche, but it is difficult to suspend belief as individuals shift from good (respectful, abstaining) to bad (raucous, addled) from one page to the next, and men repeatedly go weak-kneed before firm-breasted beauties. Forced ironic endings further undermine the proceedings.