Paraic O'Donnell has a way with words. His elegant, graceful prose doesn't simply adorn the story, it is not a mere embellishment, it adds a slow tension that is inescapable to detect at first until you realise you are hooked.
Were it not for the prose, somehow antique yet still contemporary, much like friend Doriandra's exquisite words, this novel would be a damn fine thriller. However, there is the prose to consider and besides, without the author's talent for wordplay, this debut novel, published last year, remains a very worthy read.
Mister Crowe is a man of means, by what means we aren't at first aware but when his amour, Miss Arabella, won from the hands of another, is confronted by the former lover, Mister Crowe whips out a pistol and shoots him. Shoots him dead.
Eustace is Mister Crowe's man servant, a sort of Jeeves but with menaces. Upon hearing the gunfire Eustace emerges from the baronial mansion where his master and other domestic staff live. Seeing the dead man lying where he fell, Eustace, ever cool and in control, assess the situation and instantly begins to clean up the total mess caused by his master. This not only means removing shell cases but also the body before having them destroyed.
At times, due to the author's style of writing, you feel as though this story is placed in some past time. It is only when a Jaguar car is mentioned do you realise that the prose is not only very descriptive it is also deceptive.
The book is split into two parts. Part one is entitled "Lamentation" and features a slow build that all the same grips the reader harrowing him to turn the page. We meet Clara, a mute girl-child who is the protogé of Mister Crowe. It transpires the girl may be mute, but that is no handicap to her genius.
Following the shooting, Eustace hire's men with whom he has worked before, John and Abel Crouch. Two henchmen who fear not the rattle of violence. And there is violence; little but dreadful when it appears.
The second part of the book is entitled, "A Whiteness." The knotted tension unravels.
The characters are rich, dark at times but human even if they all are united by the antique prose, the prose that is so fluid yet formal.
Paraic O'Donnell is a new voice one which should be heard even if the hearing is the reading of this book. The next one? I have no idea what or when that will be, I can only look forward to it with bated breath..
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.