Picks and Pans Review: Shade

updated 11/15/2004 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/15/2004 01:00AM

NOVEL

by Neil Jordan

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In films like The Crying Game, director Jordan keeps audiences in his grip with the help of bold twists and clever turns. In his fourth novel, the Irishman who began his career as fiction writer neatly seduces readers with the first sentence. "I know exactly when I died," announces his narrator, a murder victim whose body was never found. Not only does Jordan give us a protagonist, Nina, who speaks from beyond the veil, but he lets her loose in time; she drifts from the present (1950, in Ireland) to the turn-of-the-century past and back again. A silent film star in her prime, her shade communes with herself as a little girl in one passage and watches her killer mislead police in the next. Jordan marshals a story as compelling as it is complex, infusing it with rolling Celtic cadences; his sentences surge with a rhythm as irresistible as the tidal currents of the River Boyne, which courses through the village where the story is set. Far from a filmmaker moonlighting as a fiction writer, he's a novelist at the top of his craft.

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