Like his con artist storyteller, Jim Quick, Christian Moerk weaves a Gothic tale of suspense that draws its audience in, compelling us to find out how it all ends. The structure is intricate, but adds to the mood. The book opens with mail carrier Desmond finding the body of an old woman on his route. When the police investigate, they find not only the body of Moira, but the bodies of two young women who were apparently her prisoners. Further investigation reveals that the girls were Moira's nieces, and that a third prisoner was present at some time, but escaped. The structure immediately pulls in the reader, who knows that something horrible and dramatic must have happened, but like the police, the reader is utterly baffled. When a postal service employee, Niall, happens upon a package with the return address of one of the dead girls and impulsively takes it home with him. It turns out to be the diary of Fiona Walsh, one of the dead girls in the house. She tells the story of Jim, a storyteller who has captivated all the women in town with his fairy tale and dangerous good looks, and who arrives in town just about when mysterious deaths begin to occur. When Fiona's diary comes to an abrupt end, Niall (and the reader) is obsessed with the story and heads to the town where Fiona says the events began to see if he can pick up the thread of how the girls met their fate. He happens upon the diary of Roisin, Fiona's sister, which fills in many of the question marks. The Gothic suspense is thick and irresistible, the story tight, and the fiddly novel structure, which would have seemed amateurish and clunky in another type of book, is perfectly suited to creating the dark, foreboding mood in Darling Jim. The level of detail in the diaries is absurd, of course--no one writes detailed dialogue or remembers every event like that, but that's part of the point, and it sweeps the reader into the story.
Darling Jim is an excellent, spooky read for those who like their plot labyrinthine and their suspense relentless. Pre-order it at amazon.com or pick it up on March 31!