by Christian Moerk
Hardcover: 9780805089479, $25, Henry Holt (Macmillan)
I read the first 100 pages of this novel holding my breath and barely blinking. Here is what I discovered: 1) I should never begin a new book at work because then I will read it even when I’m not supposed to and not get any work done, and 2) Christian Moerk is a new voice to be reckoned with. Boy, oh boy, did I get the creeps! Spine tingling, goosebumps, morbid fascination with whatever twisted secret will be revealed next – the whole nine yards. In a sleepy little village in Ireland, a postman discovers the bodies of three dead women. Two were discovered right away – a bloody fight to the death that resulted in them both leaving this world. The third woman was discovered later, hidden behind a wall. Death and murder, by their very nature is a pretty creepy business, but there’s already a twist. All three women were related: the two young girls are the nieces of the older woman, and it looks like the older woman held them captive, slowly starving and poisoning them to death. Even later it is discovered that another person was also held captive in the house, but apparently managed to escape. No one knows why this gruesome episode took place.
No one, that is, until a different postman discovers a package in the post office, sent by one of the dead girls! He steals the package and opens it to find a diary, kept while the girl was held prisoner in her aunt’s house. As he reads her diary, she begins to tell him a tale of sisterly love and devotion, an aunt’s unstable mind, and a traveling bard named Jim who ensnares women far and wide.
His life already out of control (fired from his job, evicted from his apartment), the postman sets off on a quest to the village the girls are from, to find out what led them all to their pitiful end. The diary haunts him, her story haunts him – so honest, so lacking in self-pity or remorse. And what of the third person held in that house? Who was it and where are they now?
Almost a Sidney Sheldon-like psychological creepiness, you won’t be jumping at bumps in the night, but you’ll definitely feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The plot development is absolutely wonderful, the prose is crisp and clear, and the characters are ones that will stay with you long after the book has ended. Everything about this book was a sinister pleasure.