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July 05, 2003

Caught In The Light - Robert Goddard

Convoluted and unconvincing mystery, but a real page-turner

Ian Jarrett is a photographer. He had an affair five years before the story starts that nearly wrecked his marriage. He got found out by his wife when he knocked down and killed a young woman as he was driving back from a liaison with his mistress. Somehow he managed to patch his marriage together. On assignment in Vienna, he meets and has a passionate affair with a woman calling herself Marian Esguard. Foolishly, and unbelievably, he leaves his wife and daughter upon returning to England, and heads off to meet the new woman. Marian doesn't show up, and sends a message for Jarrett not to try to contact him, ever.

So far, the story seems fairly straightforward, but the author has already started to deceive us. It's all really about the car accident. The woman who was killed had a brother called Conrad Nyman, and a female lover called Daphne, who are both devastated by her death and want revenge. So they plot, and they decide that they want to ruin Jarrett's life. Marian is hired to seduce Jarrett, and make him leave his wife. She then disappears, but leaves clues for him to follow, and he is so desperate to find her, thinking that she is in danger, that he gives up work and all contact with his family to search. Daphne is a psychotherapist, and she helps Jarrett by pretending Marian was a patient called Eris Moberley. Jarrett searches for months, traversing Bath, Chichester, Somerset, Norfolk and Guernsey, and even gets caught up in a murder. The final part of the plan is when Nyman seduces Jarrett's estranged wife, and convinces her and her daughter that Jarrett is insane. It's all very bizarre, and at the climax, when Nyman is found out and kidnaps Jarrett's daughter, another desperate chase across England is started. But Nyman's business, and life, is ruined, and he kills the girl, and then himself, and Jarrett never finds Marian. This is a very unsatisfying downbeat conclusion

The subplot to all this is a very complex story about Eris having flashbacks to a previous life. In these flashbacks she is a 19th century woman called Marian Esguard who was a pioneer in the science of photography. She took photos before anyone else, and some of these still exist and are worth a fortune. Jarretts search for Eris/Marian is also a search for these photos. Once again however, the photos don't ever materialise, giving more disappointments for the reader.

If someone wanted to ruin another persons life, this plan has so many holes in it that it is incredulous, and something simpler would be much more likely to succeed. Nyman is supposed to be pathologically insane, but even that doesn't excuse this plot. Robert Goddard has gone too far this time and has tricked his readers into following a story which appears all along to be real, but turns into complete fantasy.

The writing drags you on relentlessly, but once you finish this book you'll ask yourself "Well, What on earth was the point of that?"

AE 1

Posted by se71 at July 5, 2003 12:04 PM


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