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Shirker Paperback – April 16, 2001
From Publishers Weekly
Futures broker Ellerslie Penrose, the narrator of New Zealand author Taylor's noir thriller (the first of his novels to achieve U.S. publication) has been living alone in his office in downtown Auckland, dealing with his clients over the phone and getting little sleep. Other than seeing Wilhelmina, a waitress at the Regent Hotel with whom he occasionally has sex, Penrose spends all his time working. One day, cutting down an alley, he runs into several policemen gathered around a glass recycling bin. Penrose finds a wallet in the gutter and shows it to a cop. Mistaking his gesture, the cop waves Penrose through. That is all it takes to involve him in the murder of Tad Ash, whose smashed body is in the bin. Penrose keeps the wallet and begins his own investigation. When he calls on Dede, Tad's twin brother and now the sole proprietor of an antique shop the twins ran, Penrose is told a strange story. Tad owned a valuable Victorian phenakistiscope, an instrument resembling a stereoscope that produces moving images. A diary written on its rotating cardboard disks tells the story of a 19th-century adolescent named Palmer. In 1875, in a moment of terrible crisis, he "leapt" out of time and space, an action that enrolled him in a slower temporal dimension and retarded his aging process. More research leads Penrose to a downtown brothel, where he meets Miranda Sunde, the woman who sold Tad the disks; she was Palmer's mistress. Despite all the evidence he gathers, Penrose is loath to believe in Palmer's miraculous leap until a tragedy occurs. Taylor's surreal plot never quite achieves plausibility, but his clever atmospherics and an assured command of language keep the reader intrigued. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In this mystery noir, an isolated, perhaps deranged narrator explores a murder victim's life for no real reason, becoming increasingly unhinged by what he uncovers. Ellerslie Penrose, a futures trader (as he claims; his actual business seems a figment of his own imagination) lives in a Chandleresque office in a mostly abandoned building in downtown Auckland, New Zealand. On his way to a business meeting, he comes upon a crime scene in an alley. Police are processing the stabbing death of a man found in a dumpster. Penrose finds the victim's wallet and, instead of handing it to the police, pockets it; having absconded with a vital piece of evidence, he feels compelled to continue sleuthing. Penrose's inquiries (jangled by interrogation from suspicious cops) lead him to an antiques dealer and a sought-after erotic Victorian diary that eerily connects to the murder and Penrose's own half-life. A mystery about meaning. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The second level is where things get a little more murky. I see at least two arguments as to the underlying theme of "Shirker". The first is a statement on how our modern society has left us awash in information (and memories) to the point where it is impossible to move forward due to the baggage of the past. The second speaks to being true to one's self. More specifically, it refers to holding on to what is truly important, recognizing what is truly important, in a world drowing in irrelevance.
Ultimately, this is a novel that will mean different things to different people. That's what makes it special; not only does it entertain the reader with an intelligent mystery, it also leaves the reader thinking about something bigger. I know it will stay with me for a long time.