A brilliant sequel to his highly praised Juggling the Stars, Tim Park's Mimi's Ghost is the ultimate comedy of self-justification. Morris can't get over Mimi, but then he should have thought of that before he kidnapped and killed her. Two years ago, the Italian girl eloped with him. Even as Morris turned elopement into kidnapping, writing ransom notes and collecting the cash, he was also falling deeply, genuinely in love. So getting rid of Mimi was more a punishment than a crime. He had not foreseen it; he would have done anything to avoid it. Only now, residing in Verona and married to the girl's sister, does Morris appreciate how blindly he stumbled into fate's trap. Just as our unsavory hero is beginning to adjust to his new life-a lavish house and a cushy, important position in his new family's lucrative winemaking business--he visits Mimi's grave on the "Day of the Dead" and the charming photograph of Mimi on the gravestone distinctly winks at him. Perhaps the poor dead Mimi can't get over Morris either. He begins to hear her voice; he sees her reincarnated in Renaissance madonnas. And before long she begins to tell him what he should do next. Mimi's ghost seems to be suggesting a road to redemption for Morris-he will help the poor African immigrants of Verona, giving them work in the family's vineyards. Is this the politically correct path to a newly repentant, even religious Morris? Or merely his latest scheme? Lingering questions about Mimi's death and the mysterious "accidents" that seem to befall anyone who gets in his charitable way certainly don't bode well for the former possibility.
Expatriate Englishman Morris Duckworth, the conman, serial murderer and psychopath last seen in Juggling the Stars, is back, in the egregious effulgence of his evil and charmed life. What is a literary fellow like British author Parks (Europa) doing with a slime like Morris? Having fun, writing a wild and wacky thriller that's like sharing a roller-coaster ride with a suave maniac. Morris is an inspired mixture of loony self-regard and stupidity fueled by obtuseness. Having fatally dispatched Massamina (Mimi) Trevesan, the heiress he kidnapped in the first book, evaded the law and even ingratiated himself with Mimi's family, Morris is now married to her sister, the voraciously libidinous Paola. He's living in a luxury condominium in Verona, swanning around in his Mercedes and battling with his brother-in-law for control of the family wine company. What makes Morris so fascinating is his utterly amoral mindset. Far from suffering true guilt, Morris engages in consummate self-justification. He believes Mimi has forgiven him for her murder, which was merely a reaction "to extreme circumstances." Exhibiting unmistakable signs of schizophrenia, he "sees" Mimi and talks to her, often by car phone. It's Mimi, he thinks, who advises him to dispatch three new victims. Parks applies a wicked imagination to his ingenious plot, getting Morris into one farcically dangerous situation after another. One need not have read the first book to enjoy the frissons of suspense in this one, and readers will hope they haven't seen the last of Morris and his bizarrely lethal adventures. (Feb.) Forecast: It may be his very proflicacy (10 novels and three nonfiction books) that has kept Parks from establishing an identity on this side of the Atlantic. With the right breaks, this very funny novel could find a niche in the mode established by Elmore Leonard. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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February 07, 2012
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