Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

Three women are found dead. It appears that the aunt has kept her nieces chained up and has killed them, but not before they were able to return the favor. Understandably the discovery opens up hundreds of questions. How was it that no one knew of the niece's existence? What could induce a family to do that to each other? And where was the a third sister?

Then Niall finds a package in the dead letter bin at the Post Office containing one of the girl's diaries, which starts him off on a journey of self-discovery as he solves the mystery of the deaths.

Niall's story is told by a narrator, but we also get to read the diary entries, which describe how an Irish storyteller, Jim, changed the lives of the family of women. Within these diary entries, we also get to here the serialized Fairy Tale Jim tells to the small town near Cork the women came from.

This book tries to be many things at once, and succeeds at most of them. It's a thriller, a mystery, a fairy tale, and a story of familial love. As a thriller and mystery Darling Jim is one of the best I've read. I had a difficult time putting it down and read it in two sittings, desperate to know what would happen next and what had led to the grisly scene at the house in Dublin.

As a fairy tale, it's somewhat lacking. While the stories Jim tells are interesting in and of themselves, the authors attempt to weave the tales into the other events of the story feel clunky and I often felt that conclusions and inferences were being made with no real background. This is when the story felt the most disjointed and occurred most often in the first diary entry and in Niall's story.

It is as a tale of familial love however that the work truly shines. What would you do to protect the people you love most? More to the point, what wouldn't you do? As the oldest of three sister's myself, I often compared my own feelings for my sisters to the feelings expressed in the book and found them to be imminently real. You may grow apart, but when a crisis occurs, it is family that you turn to. As Roisin Walsh, one of the sisters says "Love only those who deserve it. Trust me on this."

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I'm human, so I've got some issues, but all things considered I guess I'm reasonably normal. My parents are still married. My best friends are my sisters...okay, so I'm normal for the 1850's whatever. I'm opinionated and nerdy. I'm walking the line between tweener-style pop culture love (witness my ever-burning New Kids love and inexplicable Twilight obsession) and elitist culture snob (I can't seem to get enough 19th century British Lit and historical biographies) but, after 30 years, I'm finally learning not to give a crap what anyone else thinks about me. Oh, and those are my feet in the picture. The socks were made by a friend.

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