Merrimon Book Reviews

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From Merrimon Book Reviews
Darling Jim
Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
by Christian Moerk  

Gothic suspense and the seductive power of the story
Desmond, a mailman in Malahide, north of Dublin, loses his sanity when he peers into the strange house that children call haunted. With a horrific murder scene, the town's residents blame him at least with their looks and innuendoes.  The authorities uncover the shocking murders of two sisters and their aunt.  Mystery surrounds the circumstances of their deaths until the diary of Fiona Walsh, one of the murdered sisters, turns up in the dead letter bin.  Niall, an aspiring graphic artist and mailroom worker, becomes entranced by the diary's tale of the traveling storyteller Jim.  As he woos women with his tales of wolves and castles and yet, Jim's stories take on an ominous tone as his mythical seem to have an eerie resemblance to the truth.  Seduced themeselves by Jim, Fiona's diary tells a haunting tale of love and danger as she uncovers Jim's past and love burns hot with jealousy.  Niall feels inspired, indeed almost possessed, by the voice speaking from the grave to take up the hunt for the truth behind their lives and macabre deaths.  As more clues surface, Niall enters upon a quest to unlock the mysteries to gain a complete perspective but the more he discovers, the more danger he unlocks.  Can he find the fourth person, a witness to the events in the house, before time runs out?  Can he unlock the shadows of truth within Jim's stories to find the source of the wolf myth?

In DARLING JIM, Christian Moerk's gothic thriller tells a tragic story of love and passion through an intricate substructure of narratives, a story that the macabre crime scene evidence leaves untold.  Jealousy and love run side by side, but no investigator could ever imagine all the plots that led up to the shocking scene they discover.  Only through stories and a different kind of investigation can Niall uncover the passions and events missing from the murder site.  DARLING JIM is a novel that vacillates between love story (taken to the extreme) and thriller, between the decision to love or kill.  Each new revelation takes the story into unexpected territory, leaving the reader on edge for the next thread in the story.  Jim's stories mystify and seduce with their tales of wolves and maidens but underneath, a frightening reality hides behind the story. As a thriller, DARLING JIM will intrigue even the most careful experienced suspense readers as the story twists and turns, adding new stories with new perspectives and new evidence ---- traditional evidence in the events told by the diaries but also in the literary tropes of the stories themselves.  Jim's character haunts with his seduction but as the story unfolds, the unveiling of secrets of the Walsh family disturb just as deeply.

DARLING JIM is a chilling tale of suspense and seduction that combines elements of horror, fariy tale or archetypal mythology with a creepy modern reference, and a murder mystery with intricate psychological factors.  Christian Moerk combines a multitude of narrative voices, giving this novel an intriguing variey of prose styles.  From the haunting description of Desmond's discovery, the narrative moves from a landscape influenced by the dark, violent murder in an almost supernatural way (or at least a natural world with empathy for the spiritual) to the bureaucratic world of the post office and Niall's artistic longings.  From there, the authors increases the layering of narratives in diaries which themselves relate Jim's oral storytelling.  One one level, DARLING JIM is a thriller that will keep the reader guessing until the last page.  On another level, with its intricate narrative structure and even comments by the characters themselves, Christian Moerk tells a fascinating tale about the seductive power the story itself.  DARLING JIM paints a haunting portrait of literature itself that will intrigue readers versed in genre theory as the novel plays with genre conventions while commenting on them, creating a truly innovative work of suspense on multiple levels.

Publisher:  Henry Holt and Company (March 2009)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review courtesy of Amazon Vine
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