Ivoria by Tanith Lee. Immanion Press £11.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn
Laurence (an archaeologist) covertly leaves a Roman pin (from his latest dig) at his brother Nick’s (a gigolo) flat before he (Laurence) leaves for a dalliance with Kitty before he (Laurence) goes home to his wife Angela. Laurence takes with him a small rectangle made of ivory; the Roman pin is also made of ivory; and the moon’s ivory light shines through the octagonal window…
But Laurence dies of an aneurysm – the same illness that killed their mother years before. A certain Mr Pond visits Nick, seeking information on Laurence and his many affairs. Nick then has his own dalliance, also with Kitty. Later, Nick is threatened by three thugs, and left dying from a knife wound. Are you with me so far?
Nick recovers, staying with his sister Serena – who also (yes!) had a dalliance with (you’ve guessed) Kitty. Meanwhile, Kitty (under one of her other names) is living on a Greek island with Ross – father of the aforementioned Laurence, Serena and Nick. Phew.
This convoluted, complex story takes place in the first 220 pages. In the final 20-30 pages Tanith Lee explains the background, the secret story behind the story, introducing fresh insights, taking the reader off on sudden oblique angles. This last part is mostly tell and not enough show for my preferences; a bit like Hercule Poirot explaining all But to be honest, I’m not sure how else Ms Lee could’ve worked in all the extra details without signposting the plot too much, to the detriment of the novel.
As I was explaining the plot to my partner this morning (including a lot more detail than I’ve provided in the above) we ended up giggling. Not because the story is plain daft (it isn’t), but because it is a farce in the genuine, dramatic sense of the word; a black comedy of errors. For sure, I gave a knowing smile here and there as I read the novel; it was only at the end that I fully appreciated the wit and wonder of Ivoria. This is not obvious fantasy or horror, although horror does occur; there are also elements of crime and thriller tales. A heady mix, a wacky story, in Tanith Lee’s inimitable style. Recommended.