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Monday, April 11, 2011

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

Darling Jim is one of my favorite books so far this year!  It is a like a helix, or a double helix, or a triple helix all threaded together in this fantastic spiraling fashion, and I LOVED it.  Moerk captures the voices of the characters with an amazing ability to take them fully formed from the page into your head. The delicate balance of beauty and suspense, humor and apprehension, especially through the voices of Fiona and Rosie, kept me enthralled.

From the first few pages that described the experiences of a very minor character--Desmond, the mailman in the community of Malahide, a little north of Dublin--I was Hooked.  Yes, Hooked, with a capital H.  Dangling like a fish on the line, drawn toward the next paragraph, the next page.

"Everybody liked Desmond, even if he might have been a little too nosy for his own good.  He was also a slave to ritual, always noticing if anybody's grass needed tending or whether the paint on a flagpole had   begun to chip.  Taken together with his guilt of having seen details without understanding their true meaning, these otherwise sociable qualities cost him his sanity."

Some books manage to make the opening chapter so intriguing that I find myself fervently hoping that the rest of the novel holds up, and this one does, indeed, hold up.

When Desmond discovers the body of one of the women on his route, the garda quickly descend on the house and find two more bodies, young women who have evidently been held captive for some time.  What has been going on in this house?  Then, the possibility of a third captive, who has evidently escaped....

Stories begin to circulate, but no one really knows what has occurred or why.  When the diary of one of the young women appears and is read by an unassuming postal clerk, the story begins to unravel in the voice of Fiona Walsh.  Niall, the young clerk, learns about a handsome young man on a red motorcycle,a seanchai, a bard or story teller, who initiated the events that ended in the deaths of the three women.  Darling Jim, a catalyst for murder, who wove myth, fairy tale, and reality into the tales he told at local pubs, beguiling men and women alike.

Niall, captivated by Fiona's voice and story, begins his personal quest to discover the events that  led  to the murders.  Both Niall and the reader are mesmerized by first, Fiona's diary, and later, Rosie's recording of the events.  Compelled by the voices of the young women, Niall travels to Castletownbere in search of answers, and perhaps,  to ascertain what happened to the third sister, Aoife.

The only nitpicking  I'll admit to with this story is in the concluding chapters that deal with a connection that was foreshadowed earlier.  Without giving anything away, this portion seemed like an unnecessary addition to what was otherwise, for me, a perfect novel.

I loved the intertwining of story-telling, myth, and fairy tale.  I loved the Walsh sisters.  A joy to read.

To sum up, I'll quote Annie and link to her review:
I adore this novel.  Darling Jim is poignantly funny, enchanting and horrific.  Intrigued?  I hope so!  You’ll be rooting for the Walsh sisters and their knight in shining armor, Niall.
 And thanks again, Annie, for sending me your copy.  Reading Darling Jim was such fun! 

Once Upon a Time challenge (second book)

Fiction.  Mystery/Fairy Tale/Contemporary Literature.  2009.  285 pages.


  1. OK, you've got me completley "on the hook"! I'm heading over to see if my library has this book. Lovely.

  2. Jenclair, I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! I loved your review! It fits nicely with your Once Upon a Time reading challenge as it did with my Ireland reading challenge.

  3. I'm reading this right now, love it!

  4. Kay - It was so good! I was impressed with the way Moerk could combine an awful event in a way that was not morbid.

    Annie - I'm eager for Moerk to publish something else! I loved the dialogue that had such an Irish flavor and never seemed false, and the sisters were just marvelous.

    Anne - Yea! Isn't it a fascinating read? It hasn't taken me so long to feel like writing the review, and as usual, I just skim the surface, but the book just draws you in.

  5. I am very intrigued. Sounds like a wonderful book.

  6. Caroline - Moerk has given such individual voices to the sisters and created a story steeped in Irish atmosphere and myth.

  7. Okay, I can't put it off any longer. I am going to have to read this one.

  8. You had me at Aoife. Thanks for the review!

  9. Lisa - I'd send you the copy that Annie sent me, but I've already mailed it to a friend! Yes, you should read it!

    Bybee - Aoife offers a surprise or two!

  10. Ooh, this looks fantastic. Loving the cover art, too. I'll definitely be looking for this one.

  11. Traci - I don't think you will be disappointed!

  12. I have deep respect for Christian Moerk. Posted an article on his work on my blog: