I had never heard of the author before until reading “Shelf Monkey” by Corey Redekop. He used him as an outlet of sorts. “Shelf Monkey” is told through emails that the main character writes to McCormack after having met him at a signing. Here is a rundown of what the book is about thanks to Publishers Weekly and Amazon.Com:
Carrick is a fog-shrouded, former mining town-a place of coal smoke, dead bracken and heather-in the Uplands of a country identified only as the Island. Recent acts of vandalism - the mutilation of a war memorial, desecration of a cemetery, acid thrown on books at the library - are followed by the death of a shepherd, whose body is found with his lips cut off. Then a plague strikes, killing first the animals, then children and adults. Most of the victims become garrulous, in effect talking themselves to death. Could a mad poisoner be avenging the loss of 19 Carrick soldiers in the collapse of a bridge during what is referred to as “the War?” Or are the events related to the apparent accident in which enemy POWs working the Carrick Mine were drowned? James Maxwell, a cub reporter from the Capital, assists Reeve Blair (a reeve is a police official) in his investigation. Maxwell finds patterns that lead him to utterly false but intriguing conclusions.
There seems to be different shades of this story. The first part is a letter that is narrated by one of the citizens of Carrick, written specifically to Maxwell. I gives off the vibe of a spooky type story. When Maxwell get to Carrick himself to interview people, then dark comedy seems to start creeping in. All aspects are good.
The mysteries surrounding the town's past play a huge part in the current events, too. Carrick has seen a few tragedies leading up to this most recent. Along with the pasts of it's citizens, especially their parents, there is much to be made from them. All these threads are pulled together very well as the story unfolds. It is easy to see the effects of these events and choices have had on the characters, how they have developed views and opinions, and how it effects their initial thoughts as the vandalism starts.
McCormack’s writing style is very accessible, yet still peppered with unique prose. The way he gives just enough to make the story interesting, then revealing more later, worked very well, an obvious talent at telling stories. One thing though was how the book finished. There is good and bad in it. The reasons for the most recent happenings in Carrick seem rather unexpected yet dull. But there is enough mystery left with why the citizens reacted and believed what they did. They are still unanswered at the end of the book.
It’s not a very long book, and the story telling, plus writing style make it move even faster. Even where there seems to be a lack of overall “bang” out of the story, it still gives a richly detailed look at life in a small town, what prejudices can do to it’s citizens, and how a mystery can seemed to be solved when actually it isn’t.