Last night I had a Friday night in for the first time in a while. I did all of my favorite lazy things: watched a movie while eating popcorn with parmesan and black pepper, then got in the bath with a glass of Bailey’s and a good book.
Which one? Darling Jim. I recommend it. In fact, depending on how interesting the author seems to be, I might recommend it for a feature in our April issue. The novel opens with a horrible murder scene: a woman is found dead in her Dublin home along with two of her twenty-something nieces, whom she had kept prisoner in her house for three months, slowly poisoning them. But why? And where is the third sister? The crime seems destined to remain unsolved, until an aimless postal clerk, Niall, finds one of the sisters’ diaries in the dead letter box and decides to find the answers himself. It leads him to a small town, and the story of a charming stranger who swept in and changed the course of the sisters’ lives.
Darling Jim is something of a cross between The Lovely Bones and The Thirteenth Tale. Like Sebold’s memorable debut, it makes the reader fall in love with characters who are dead (much of the novel is told in the voices of two of the sisters, Fiona and Róisin, through their diaries). Like Setterfield’s, it has a Gothic tone and “stories” that hold clues to real-life mysteries. And like both novels, it contains just the right balance of literary merit and commercial appeal that could lead to bestseller status.