The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Darling Jim, by Christian Moerk

The enchanting, chilling story of Darling Jim is equal parts fairy tale and suspense novel. I found it slightly uneven, but not to the point of deterring me from giving it my strongest recommendation. Moerk’s dark novel is one of those that you can’t put down, the kind where you need to reserve a Saturday to read it, because otherwise you’ll be up late reading and find yourself tired and distracted at work the next day.

In the story, a young postal clerk named Niall finds the diary of Fiona Walsh, one of two sisters who died, along with her aunt, under unexplained circumstances. The diary recounts the story of storyteller Jim Quick, repeats some of his stories, notes the string of murders that seemed to follow him, explains how he became entangled with Fiona and her family, and ultimately sends Niall chasing off to find out exactly what happened and, more importantly, why. Niall attempts to track down both the missing third sister and “Gatekeeper,” a disembodied voice from the land of ham radio.

Aside from the inventive plot, I liked the way Moerk crafted some — but not all — of his characters. Where they went deep enough, I felt like I knew them, like I could see these people. The charming and sinister Jim, the confused but determined Niall, and the angry and headstrong Rosie stood out in particular. On the other hand, I felt like Moira, the aunt, was just a step above cariacature, and Rosie’s twin, Aoife, was more of a cipher than Moerk likely intended. Still, this is a strong and powerful book that will stick with you for days after you finish it. I strongly recommend it.

As far as animals go, the story has “incidental” dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When Niall takes off for parts unknown, his last act is to arrange someone to care for his cat, which I thought was a nice touch. Jim’s stories can be gruesome, however, with at least one nasty horse incident and some ugly images of murdered wolves. It’s not what I’d consider gratuitous for the story, so I’m going to declare this book MOSTLY SAFE for animal lovers. Enjoy!

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June 13, 2010 - Posted by | beach book, Book Reviews | , , , , , , ,

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