SHEAR by Tim Parks


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 More sunlit suspense with a difference from the British author of Juggling the Stars (1993). Here, a geologist turns sleuth in Greece while coping with his midlife crisis. Quartz and feldspar, phenocrysts and microfractures--the novel bristles with the language of geology. Peter Nicholson is a 40- year-old London geologist visiting a Greek island quarry. His clients, Australian developers of office space in Sydney, are suing their Greek granite supplier and want ``something really damning'' in his report on quarry procedures and conditions. Expecting to mix pleasure with business, Peter has brought along Margaret, a 22- year-old student he loves enough to contemplate deserting his wife and children. He hopes the exotic locale will seal his future with Margaret, but the picture is complicated by his wife's fax announcing another pregnancy and by his impulsive bedding of Thea, the quarry director's beautiful daughter. Apparently Peter is testing his ``resistance to shear'' to see if he'll crack like the defective stone sent to Australia. (Parks rides the geological metaphor hard throughout.) His game of chicken is interrupted by Mrs. Owen, widow of a worker killed on the construction site, here to exact revenge and enlist Peter's help. Her disappearance, followed by the theft of his report, persuades him a sinister company cover-up is under way. Displaying an integrity not seen in his relationships, Peter confronts the director and does his own detective work in a tense finale. Underneath the noise Parks is asking a provocative question: Are our partners unique? His characters exemplify different answers. For Thea men are interchangeable, but Mrs. Owen mourns her husband as ``irreplaceable.'' Peter is confused, hence his crisis. Meanwhile, these characters are also players in a suspense game. It's a complicated scheme, and Parks handles the suspense better than the relationships, never quite getting a fix on Peter. Flawed but provocative work from an always interesting writer.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8021-1552-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994


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