Sunday, October 2, 2011

Currently reading: THE COURTSHIP GIFT

One of the best things about being on holiday (I've spent the past week or more in my hometown of Nelson, enjoying some of the Rugby World Cup festivities there and catching up with friends and family) is just picking up a random older book from a new-to-you author and reading it at your leisure - no looming deadlines, no snatching chapters and pages at lunch while at work, no choices being limited by recent releases, or an upcoming author interview or review wanted by a particular editor (I do enjoy all those things - it's just nice to have a change of pace too). Browsing a secondhand bookstore the other day, I came across many interesting books, including THE COURTSHIP GIFT by Julie Parsons.

Parsons is an author I've been meaning to read for a while; she has lived most of her adult life in Ireland, and sets her books there, but was born and raised in New Zealand. There are a couple of her books on my bookshelves in Auckland (MARY, MARY and THE HOURGLASS), but I hadn't got to them yet - it can be hard to find time to just pick up a 'random' book, with all the reviewinging, interviewing etc that needs to be done for various magazines, newspapers, and websites. So when I saw a nice little paperback version of THE COURTSHIP GIFT for a very reasonable price, I grabbed it, and have been really enjoying reading it over the past couple of days. I've got to say, I'm impressed by Parsons' writing - she really delves into the psychological suspense area well, with some intriguing characters, and also has a lovely turn of phrase when it comes to descriptions, and her narrative voice or style. I'll definitely be reading more of her books.

Here's the blurb for THE COURTSHIP GIFT, which was first published in 1999:

Julie Parsons exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, Mary, Mary, which, according to The New York Times, "takes the psychological suspense thriller to places it rarely dares to go." Now, in The Courtship Gift, a shy female entomologist is pitted against a murderous maniac.

Dublin on a cold April night. Anna Neale arrives home late and discovers her husband, David, dead in his study, his face a rictus mask of agony. Anna gazes with disbelief at the telltale marks on his skin. It seems David died from anaphylactic shock induced by a bee sting. But it is not bee season, and he has known all his life that he is allergic to the bee's poison. Anna finds a peculiar package addressed to David and begins to suspect that he was murdered.

As the weeks pass, Anna learns that nothing in her life with David had been as it seemed. In death, her husband is an utter stranger to her. She is now alone, defenseless, and feels herself falling apart.

This is just what attracts the handsome and sympathetic man who calls himself Matthew Makepiece. Matthew has been watching for months, waiting for his opportunity, orbiting her quiet world in increasingly constricting circles. As she gets to know him, Anna senses danger. Ultimately, she realizes her own life is in jeopardy and has no choice but to do what no one believed her capable of.

Julie Parsons has created another female protagonist of extraordinary strength and psychological resources.

About two thirds of the way through, I'll reserve my judgment until the end to see whether I agree with some of the marketing hyperbole in the blurb - but signs are good so far that Parsons is definitely an author well worth reading. As I understand it, she has published six books at least:

  • MARY, MARY (1998)
  • EAGER TO PLEASE (2000)
  • THE HOURGLASS (2005)
  • I SAW YOU (2007)
Have you read any of Julie Parsons psychological suspense novels? If so, what do you think? Do you like occasionally going back and reading older crime novels from new-to-you authors, not just the latest releases that fill the review pages and booksellers' shelves, online or otherwise? Comments welcome


  1. I believe I have read Mary, Mary several years ago. If it is the book I think of, it was excellent.

  2. I didn't realise Julie Parsons is a Kiwi! I did like her debut a lot (though I think it was called something else in the UK) but felt her next one or two did not really live up to it. She fell off my radar after that, but maybe I should try her again.