The Perfect Pair: Shards from the Mirror

by David C Holroyd & Tracy J Holroyd

review by Ben Reeves


Shards from the Mirror is the third and final part of the Perfect Pair trilogy, detailing the often horrific story behind professional dolphin training. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least, and the series comes to a dramatic end as the threat from early in the first book (which echoes throughout all three volumes) really makes itself felt: “Dolphinariums don’t just break dolphins - they break trainers.”

For those who haven’t read the first two parts of the trilogy by the Holroyd siblings, The Perfect Pair is the story of the semi-fictional dolphin trainer David Capello. While the book is classified as a work of fiction and must be sought in the fiction section of book stores, this is primarily a legal defence against an overwhelmingly powerful dolphinarium industry; an industry for which this third book especially is a shocking exposé of callous brutality against highly intelligent living creatures.

Literally anyone who has ever worked in any company ever will be drawn into the book on a wave of sheer sympathy. The treatment of David and his aquatic charges - the titular Perfect Pair - by the Company is as barbaric as it is familiar. The constant demand for more results with fewer resources, the callous disregard for human (and dolphin) lives and wellbeing, the claiming of credit by those who have done nothing to earn it and the shameful treatment of those who do all of the hard work, all in the name of profit and the deluded opinion that it constitutes good management: It’s all vividly described by the Holroyds, with the added horror of the bloody consequences felt by the dolphins.

It must be admitted that, if you haven’t read the first two books - The Enchanted Mirror and The Mirror Cracks - some aspects of Shards from the Mirror will seem a little baffling. Old characters make dramatic returns (or, in a couple of cases, are merely mentioned) without any kind of explanation of who they are and why they are significant. However, the trilogy is meant to be read together, just like The Lord of the Rings’ three parts. Taking only the third part out of context, in either case, would be redundant. Just like its two prequels, though, Shards from the Mirror is incredibly compelling and its structure of short, sharp chapters makes it very easy and quick to read.

The book’s contents, however, makes reading it quite a challenge. Make no mistake, the tale is a brutal one, especially when you recognise the conflicted nature of its writer. Even as Capello begins to realise just how little care the Company has for its “assets”, he still strives to make his Perfect Pair the best dolphin show in the world. You quickly come to realise that what initially seems like a somewhat disjointed and confused writing style is actually the deterioration of Capello’s mental state. And you’re coming along for the ride.

A theme throughout the three books is Capello’s somewhat baffling connection with his dolphins, earning him the nickname of the ‘psychic trainer’. As with the previous two parts, this nebulous concept is very well described and delivered - far better than we can do here, so you’re going to have to read it for yourself to find out exactly what we mean! It gets a little extreme and pushes the boundaries of credibility right at the end but, after all that the reader has gone through alongside the character, you are left more than willing to believe him.

If you think that being categorised as fiction means that there will be a happy ending, prepare to be sorely disappointed. The ending is a sequence of crushing hammer-blows as what remains of Capello’s will and happiness is destroyed. To all intents and purposes, the happy ending came over 40 years later, with the publication of three hard-hitting and highly recommended books.