Sunday, August 4, 2013

Darling Jim (audio book) by Christian Moerk, read by Stephen Hoye and Justine Eyre

Darling Jim was on my list of audiobooks I'd cataloged that looked interesting, so I decided to give it a shot. It started off really, really well, but then became a slog for long stretches of time. Just a warning – this post contains spoilers.

The book begins by showing readers the end, or at least one end. The police are called to a home after a dead body is spotted inside. The house turns out to contain many more horrors than just one dead body. As near as anyone can tell, the dead woman had had two young women, her nieces, locked up in her home. One of the nieces escaped, killed her, and died before she even made it out of the house. The other niece was found still locked up, dead from the rat poison her aunt had been putting in her food.

Niall, a young postal worker, finds a mysterious diary in the post office's dead-letter bin. The niece who managed to escape and kill her aunt had written it. In her diary, Fiona told the story of the things that led to their aunt locking them up. Fiona became enamored with a drifter who settled in her village, a charming man named Jim. Unfortunately, so did her aunt. By the time Fiona realized there was something dark and deadly behind Jim's good looks, it was too late. Niall becomes obsessed with the story of Fiona, her sisters, and Jim, but Fiona's diary only tells part of the story. If Niall wants to find out the rest, he's going to have to go hunting in Fiona's home village for her sister Roisin's diary.

The part where the sisters and their aunt were found dead in the house was really good – very chilling, and I, like Niall, wanted to know what happened. Unfortunately, Fiona's diary was not nearly as good. I wanted to throttle that woman. Not for falling for Jim, although, if I remember correctly, she slept with Jim before breaking up with her boyfriend – have I mentioned that I'm not a fan of cheating? No, what really made me want to throttle her was that she kept lusting after Jim even after she realized he was a thieving, lying snake. She was horrified when she learned that he'd arrange to sleep with women so they'd be occupied while his partner sneaked in, robbed them, and maybe killed them too, and she hated him for shacking up with her aunt as a way of ensuring he could keep and eye on her, since she knew his horrible secrets...and yet I'm willing to bet that, if he'd said “You're the girl for me, let's have sex,” she'd have jumped in his bed in an instant. It took one of her sisters being raped by Jim to snap her out of her Jim trance.

Fiona's diary dwelled on a lot of things, including a serial story Jim spent the occasional evening telling. I became so very tired of that story, and I kept thinking, “Shouldn't Fiona be speeding things up a little? She's slowly weakening and dying from rat poison, and yet she's writing her account of what happened like she has all the time in the world.” The switch to Roisin's diary was a welcome one. Her diary told the story of what happened in the village after Jim began growing his poisonous little roots, and how the sisters eventually worked to stop him. It was interesting stuff, but the ending was clear: Roisin was going to die after being imprisoned. The big question, though, was what happened to the third sister.

Niall wanted to know, too. He also wanted to know who it was that Roisin talked to via her ham radio – whoever it was, he seemed to know an awful lot about Jim and what he was going to do. Unfortunately, I didn't find Niall's portions of the book nearly as interesting as Roisin's, or even Fiona's. For one thing, the male and female portions of the book were read by two different readers, and Justine Eyre's Irish accent was much easier on the ear than Stephen Hoye's. For another, I came to hate how Moerk handled Niall's story versus that of the sisters.

This was technically the story of three sisters. Niall's story should have merely been the frame in which they were presented. However, by the end of the book, he was basically hailed as a knight in shining armor by the remaining sister, and the ending became his ending. Although Niall was a postal worker, his true dream was to become a graphic novel artist. He spent a good chunk of the book lamenting his inability to draw a truly terrifying wolf, concluding that he couldn't do it because he didn't really understand evil. By the end, though, he had permission to transform the sisters' story into a graphic novel...even though their story, in their own words, already existed, albeit not completely in Niall's possession. But I guess their own words aren't good enough.

All in all, this had some good parts and some incredibly boring parts. Unfortunately, it also had me grinding my teeth in annoyance by the end.

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