Fury - Shirley Marr I've finally read the almost unobtainable young adult novel Fury by the wonderful Australian author Shirley Marr (You see what I mean when you encounter her in one of the discussions here on Goodreads. Shirley is one of thoses authors who also dare to stay readers with their own opinions on books and the world, which means - like you might have noticed - being among the very last of an almost extinct species.)

Since crime-focused fiction is usually not my cup of tea, my rating (3.5 stars altogether) means that I do recommend the book to readers who spend their time in the the criminal thriller corner more often than I do.

And that is because Fury is very dark and excellently structured. Marr uses the a story-within-story concept (if you have read the adult thriller The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones you know what I mean): The outer layer has the stubbornly evasive heroine sitting in a police questioning room with an officer - or in Eliza Roberta Boans' case a youngish, attractive humane psychologist employed by the police - who tries to pry out of her what really happened prior to her arrest under suspicion of murder by knife, the inner layer tells the heroine's story in her own pace, meaning that she withholds the information which interests patient Dr. Fadden and the reader most (how many were murdered, who was murdered, what are the reasons for the deed and is the heroine really responsible or even sane enough to receive a punishment) for a long, long time, feeds choppy bits and hints along with random episodes of her school life, of her childhood and of her ueber-rich and sheltered neighborhood in the ditch-lined suburb East Rivermoor. This choice of narration keeps up the reader's attention without fail - it had even me turning the pages with only a dinner-break in between - and makes us hunt frantically from clue to clue. I wondered who much calculation and how many burned brain-synapses were necessary to sprinkle just the right facts into the story in the right places and in the right order.

What forces me to rate the reading experience lower is the almost complete lack of connection between most of the characters and myself. I did not mind Eliza to be a spoiled teen who has it all and expect it all. I did not mind Eliza to be probably a murderess who might or even might have not a good reason for having wielded a knife. But I did mind Eliza to fail at winning me over to her side although the potential was there: Absent father, indifferent and perpetually traveling high-society mother, utter loneliness, the feeling to be unimportant and overlooked in spite of many efforts to get attention in school by smart and not so smart means. No, Eliza and I simply did not click. But at least I was able to puzzle together a vague picture of Eliza’s personality during the second half of the story, to anticipate what she would feel or do; and I admired her sassiness in the interrogation room. As the rest of the cast, Eliza’s friends, her parents, teachers, classmates, neighbors and the authorities of East Rivermoor, were concerned, I simply found no familiar handle to grasp. Half of the time I did not understand at all what they were doing and saying or why. Yet I guess the complete intransparency of the character set has been assembled intentionally to create a certain eerie atmosphere. The reader is supposed to be at unease, to enter unknown territory, to feel the need to constantly turn uncomfortably around in nervous circles.

Unfortunately in order to thorougly enjoy and adore a book of any genre I, personally, need solid, life-like and likable characters who also show the notable promise of some development. While reading Fury I felt like I was trying to sift plancton out of a vast ocean using my own clumsy hands. I felt that I kind of hated Ella Dashwood, the new and newly-rich girl, right after she was introduced, but I could not pinpoint why. Something about her just did not add up properly. With Eliza’s other friends I could not even say if they were really friends or only a pupose-focused group with Eliza as the self-declared leader, if they actually liked Eliza or if they descpised her. Although I have experienced a friendship with a manipulative control-freak in primary school myself, I had no chance to understand the dynamics of Eliza’s triangle. Lexi and Marianne are beautiful. Lexi is obsessed with weight and is maybe kind of kind, Marianne is gifted and obsessed with school and is sometimes a bit mean or spontaneous or snarky. One of them is blond, I forgot who. Sometimes two or three of them bonded, sometimes they did not. They were friends or enemies with some boys at school and some girls, too. The principal of the private school had zero interest in really changing his students’ behavior for good, the school councelor turned out to be a mischief and gossip lover without an ounce of work ethics, the teachers declared openly which students they prefered or spent their lessons watching the clock with propped up feet. In addition there was Eliza’s childhood-friend Neil, an intelligent trouble-maker, whose relationship to Eliza and Marianne was also undefinable and who I would not be able to describe properly. And finally the unfamiliarity of East Rivermoor itself: The suburb had a fantasy-like sheen to it. Eliza hints at the difficulty to leave, at the ditch and the wall surrounding it, at disappearing girls and a strict curfew on work days. The only “normal” person in my opinion was Dr. Fadden, although I did not understand why he would risk his job by letting his criminal charge out of the questioning room.

Sooo... If you like dark crime-stories involving strange places that play with your mind and make you thoroughly uncomfortable - and if you do not mind that the quirky characters are nothing like you and the people you know -, do try to get hold of a copy of Fury. For those of you who speak and read German: The soon available translation might be easier to obtain than the Australian original.