Tim Parks attained prominence with the Booker nominated "Europa", but "Shear" seemed the more interesting novel. As a one time quarry man turned novelist, Parks writes with rare authority about a geologist called Peter Nicolson who is sent to a Mediterranean island to inspect a granite quarry whose product for an Australian project has resulted in the "accidental" death of a construction worker. Using the language of geology and images drawn from the world of mineralogy (eg, shear, quartz, feldspar, etc), Parks scores with a gripping thriller that has you on the edge of your seat all through its 210 pages. The pace doesn't let up, in fact gathers pace until it delivers a shattering climax at the very end. The words "there was evil in the rocks" early in the novel sets the tone for what ensues. The philandering protagonist(Peter) isn't exactly a sympathetic character. He is unfaithful to his pregnant wife from a marriage gone stale, yet thinks nothing of cheating on his travelling companion mistress while on his investigative mission. In the course of his five-day stay on the island, Peter finds himself equally subject to the effects of "shear" that granite slabs are exposed to in their voyage to their final destination. Even the moral choices that Peter is confronted with each step of the way are tainted by motives which are suspect. Without spoiling the fun for readers of this highly ingenious and dazzlingly written suspense novel, I can only say that "Shear" is entertainment of the first order and noboby who has read it will feel disappointed.
Tim Parks is the author of several distinguished works of fiction and non-fiction. In addition, he has produced well received translations of Italian fiction including the work of Italo Calvino. Sheer is a novel which demonstrates the author's usual linguistic brilliance along with a surprising knowledge of geology, both aspects of which combine to produce a work of extraordinary richness and vitality. A geologist, finding himself the dupe of big money interests, falls into an ever widening pit of sexual and ethical malaise. An extremely interesting novel by one of the best of today's younger English writers.