Friday, June 09, 2006

Julie Parsons: The Hourglass

Wham! After reading a few gentle, civilized mysteries I picked up the latest Julie Parsons at the library. Damn, the woman throws you straight in with the wolves, doesn't she? As the cover quote from Irish Tatler says: "You won't be able to put it down and you won't be able to sleep". Too right. The thing with Julie Parsons is that she might just kill everyone, you can't be sure. I was so tense reading The Hourglass that I just had to check the last pages to see who dies - because someone does, count on it. Also, the book starts with a - what's the opposite to flashback? flashfront? whatever - to events occurring near the end, so you know Bad Things are coming.

This book is about Lydia Beauchamp, an old garden designer, all alone in her old house in Co. Cork. Her husband killed himself years ago, and she hasn't seen her daughter for twenty years. She meets a young man, whom she takes into her confidence, but he is there by design, to exact revenge for things that happened a long time ago.

The villain of the piece is superbad indeed, and very scary. Indeed, I was a little disappointed by the end, because with such an efficient killing machine out and about you'd expect more slaughter. She chickened out a bit actually, did Julie. Not that I'm complaining, I'm a wimp. From a literary point of view though it feels almost a trifle unresolved.

I especially love Parsons' books for the insight into a modern, darker Ireland they provide. Growing up half-Irish I had to put up with a lot of "ooo, lovely country, everyone so friendly, lovely pubs, leprechauns" nonsense. Made me want to go "ooo, xenophobia, institutionalized racism, alcoholism". I haven't been to Ireland for over a decade, and I need these glimpses of modern Ireland now and then.

Now, must go help Minima wrap parcel, before she combusts.

Edit: remembered what I wanted to ramble about, really. This is the second Parsons novel I've read where one big theme is the strong love/same sex relationships forged in prison, between people who would otherwise not identify themselves as gay. In the first book, Eager To Please, the relationship was between women, here it's between men, and has more destructive power. Another theme is what prison does to inmates, how destructive it is. I wonder what personal experience Parsons has of prison life? Must try to find some interviews.

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