In the hallucinatory light and heat of a Mediterranean island, a geologist arrives to inspect a granite quarry where a worker has been killed in suspicious circumstances. Briefed in advance to write a damning report, he brings along his young mistress and pushes his wife and family to the back of his mind. But his blithe plans are disrupted by the arrival of the dead man's widow, hell-bent on revenge; a fax from his wife announcing her pregnancy; and a threatening dispute with the quarry owners. Conflicting ...
In the hallucinatory light and heat of a Mediterranean island, a geologist arrives to inspect a granite quarry where a worker has been killed in suspicious circumstances. Briefed in advance to write a damning report, he brings along his young mistress and pushes his wife and family to the back of his mind. But his blithe plans are disrupted by the arrival of the dead man's widow, hell-bent on revenge; a fax from his wife announcing her pregnancy; and a threatening dispute with the quarry owners. Conflicting messages and complex motivations abound until, from the dust and roar of quarry and stone mill, the jagged contours of a harrowing conspiracy emerge. By the time the home office instructs him to drop the case, it is too late. He has already stumbled into a web of blackmail, deception, and murder. "Shear," a geological term, occurs when "pressure is applied in at least two different and not diametrically opposite directions," and in Shear Tim Parks has created a shattering portrait of a man confronting multiple forces and mounting obsessions. At stake is his marriage, his affair, his career, the life of an unborn child, his own life, and the lives of innocent people. Inevitably, all decisions and choices will emerge as suspect. Even integrity can be "just a cover for escape."
Parks's versatility and supple prose is again manifested in his sixth novel, his second foray into the psychological suspense genre though this work has neither the mesmerizing narrative voice nor the taut pacing of the praised Juggling with the Stars . Here he uses geological metaphors to delineate the moral and emotional conflicts of his characters--``shear'' being the way a quarried rock may expand and break after enormous stresses are released. Sent to Italy to investigate the death of a quarry employee, geologist Peter Nicholson receives bribes of cash and sex from Thea, daughter of the firm's wily boss, and is told to write a report exonerating the company. Marrried and a father, Nicholson feels his body's texture fatally vulnerable to his own ``shear.'' Though he has brought along his mistress, 18-year-old Margaret, he nonetheless succumbs to Thea's seduction. His pregnant wife faxes him from England, threatening an abortion. The dead man's widow and child show up with a shard of blood-stained rock. In this area of the world, rock is ubiquitous-- in door and window sills, basins, stairs, cobblestones. Grimly introspective, Nicholson is haunted by the arid volcanic landscape and the ``evil in the rock'' which infects his foes and himself. Only ``his pearl'' Margaret a play on the etymology of her name remains free of taint, pearls being organic rather than mineral. Events turn sinister, while the tale takes on mythic resonance from the region's ancient gods--Theseus, Neptune, Pandora. Unfortunately, some of the technical analyses of rock components are turgid, but the tale's horrific denouement proves memorable. July
Expecting a relaxing business trip abroad with Margaret, the young mistress he adores, English geologist Peter Nicholson is unpleasantly surprised when his inspection of a quarry operation producing materials for the massive Marlborough Place Project requires more than cursory attention. At first, problems seem limited to routine details of quality control, but the shrill presence of half-mad Mrs. Owen, widow of an employee killed at the site, is troubling: she insists retribution is due for her husband's death, but the company dismisses questions concerning her accusations. Looking deeper, Peter becomes entangled in suspicions and in a sexual liaison with the plant director's manipulative daughter. His problems are compounded when a FAX arrives announcing his wife's pregnancy and Margaret promptly decrees that their affair must end. Peter feels his identity cracking; his dreams are troubled by visions of an evil presence in the local rock. The sudden disappearance of Mrs. Owen pushes Peter to act, leading to a cliff-hanging denouement as tragic as it is inevitable in this dark, brilliantly realized thriller. Good vacation reading; recommended for most public libraries.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va.