4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I have read just about every book Thomas H Cook has written. His themes always contain a sense of Conradian darkness, but I feel that now he is beginning to home in on a central premise. A premise which focuses on the nature of murder as a singular force and the balance of judgement/revenge.
His last novel 'The Master of the Delta' brings in much mention of historical atrocities - the Spanish Inquisition, the gulag ships, and so on. Cook touches on this type of material again here - Countess Bathory, war crimes, various famous serial killers. (But not in any sensationalising way. As a crime writer he is one of the most philosophical and morally tenacious in searching through the murk and the sadism.)
This is a truly multilayered book - and one of the strangest I think he has ever written. A previous reviewer states that the reader needs to go back to the first chapter after reaching the end to find out what has happened to George. This is spot on. (References in the story to 'a further turning of the screw' are definately relevant here.) It's not the kind of twist I expected from Cook, but then again he has never dealt in conventional 'twists' anyway. A further reason why he is so original and interesting as a crime author.
'The Fate of Katherine Carr' is an uneasy, perplexing, horrifying and moving novel. I really hope it finds a big audience. It would also make a superb film.
on 8 January 2014
This is a layered novel, being a story within a story within a story (and each has relevance to the reader's understanding, which might not at first be apparent). Although that sounds complicated in principle it needn't be, as similar structures are not that uncommon in lesser novels. But Thomas H Cook is not a common writer, and if you're expecting to understand this novel at a single reading, or fully unravel everything after even a second reading, I think you're going to be disappointed. (But I agree with others that it is the type of novel that rewards a second reading - just don't expect answers to everything, or more correctly don't expect the author to provide them directly.) On the other hand, if you like to be challenged to think, almost certainly the novel will leave a powerful impression, albeit rather depressing. And I don't mean to imply Cook's writing is other than excellent - Cook is stylistically a first class writer - it's just that if you're like me there will be places where you'll be thinking "what on earth is going on here?". So, thought-provoking, memorable and ultimately rewarding but if you're new to Cook I probably wouldn't start here - I've not read all Cook's novels but I think "Red Leaves" or "The Last Talk with Lola Faye" might be easier introductions (if you're not impressed I'd be surprised - and then come back to "Katherine Carr"). If you know Cook you'll know what to expect, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
on 13 May 2010
Stories within stories within stories. On finishing this book, I had to think hard, revisit the beginning and it was then that I think I got the levels of invention clear, and what the intention of the narrator was.
And then the story became even more powerful.
As with many of Thomas H Cook's novels, there is much darkness here and exploration of the nature of evil.
Cook writes elegantly. His best books are soaked through with secrets - often traumatic and murderous ones from childhood or the past that come pushing through into the present.And there is almost always a sense of dark revelation to come and much suspense.And often an unexpected and chilling twist as well.
"The Fate of Katherine Carr," like the marvellous "Breakheart Hill" and "Instruments of Night" and "Red Leaves" and others, is not a conventional "page-turning" mystery or thriller. It is deeper, more thoughtful and lasts longer in the mind.
Thomas H. Cook is an under-rated or under-known writer I think - and one of those whose images and explorations into the dark heart stay with you (or stay with me, at least) long after the book is finished, unlike many ephemeral mysteries, which are very soon forgotten.
For me this wasn't quite as satisfying as the other books I've mentioned, but it is still a very rich and rewarding story. And I've a feeling that its threads and echoes and haunting conclusion - which makes you reconsider the facts of the case - will not easily fade.
on 10 September 2010
I would dearly have loved to have awarded five stars to this story as I am a devoted fan of Thomas H. Cook. However, to say I was totally confused at the end of the book is an understatement. I have taken the advice of a previous reviewer and started reading the first chapters again, but I am now on to the fourth chapter and I'm not any further enlightened. I shall persevere to the end, as it is a hauntingly sad tale, beautifully written as usual by TH Cook, but I don't think I will be any the wiser second time around and still feel confused when I reach the final page.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2009
Three different stories fold over one another in this gothic mystery which revolves around the self-obsessive voice of a highly self-conscious, introspective former travel writer who laments the loss of his murdered son who had gone missing seven years before. Wracked with grief there is little that George Gates can do after eight-year-old Teddy was brutally killed one afternoon while waiting for his father to collect him after school. His body was eventually discovered, weighted with stones and suck to the muddy bottom of the Winthrop River. Suddenly the world for George has dropped away, the days falling endlessly, the grieving father desperate for revenge. Even as George remembers Teddy, the slow burn of his lost life, the killer never found, he narrates his tale to an enigmatic Indian man, Mr. Mayawati. Like a spider spinning the first delicate fiber of its web, George recounts his friendship with Arlo McBride, a retired cop and a strange kind of mystery about a missing person, he cannot get off his mind, a thirty one -year-old woman named Catherine Carr, last seen standing near a little rock grotto over the Winthrop River back on 1987.
Katherine was a writer like George only she only wrote poems - published stuff in little literary magazines - but she had just vanished "like she cut a slit on the world and stepped through it." Held captive by his dark turn of mind and constantly tormented dreams of Teddy's capture, George never stops harboring the notion that the man who'd killed his son would one day walk into his sites and discovering the strange fate of Katherine Carr, he can perhaps assuage his own feelings towards the death his Teddy. Positive that Arlo had missed a vital clue and mislaid a critical piece of information, he obtains from Katherine's friend Audrey the opening chapters of a story Catherine wrote, and a few poems.
Strangely it is George's friendship with a dying twelve-year-old girl, Alice Barrows who has progeria, premature aging, that helps in unlock the cryptic beginnings of Katherine's story. Alice is a very bright girl, possessed of a tremendous curiosity, but she doesn't have much time left. Even as she faces the hopelessness of her situation with a profound stoicism, fanatically tapping away on her laptop computer, George connects Alice to his lost boy, with the glimmer of a smile, the arch of an eyebrow, a twelve year old girl who looks like an old woman and that of the disappearance of Katherine.
Even now, in his solitary state, the world impinges on George along with Katherine's story and a mysterious figure called Maldrow and an "unknown man," Catherine enters her own story as a character. Whether based on herself or not, she's forever doomed prey. A story with its flickering horrors and talk of blood, and a girl whose own dark fate was approaching quickly, the character of Maldrow becomes only half-visible, "his features cloudy and indistinct, a character that Katherine has inexplicably rendered too insubstantially.
As George continues to fulfill his promise to Alice, two amateur sleuths following the trail of an elusive mystery, Cook writes of Katherine's literary fate in oddly haunting circumstances. This novel has all the hallmarks of 40's noir where symbolic images abound: figures in shadowy corners, a mist filled river bank, the stone grotto by the river where Katherine had been seen last, ghostly walkways, and spectral apparitions of evil murderers. Harrison digs into the darkest corners of the human psyche, the murky world of missing things and how sad it is - the unresolved, and how crowded life is with unsolved mysteries like the murder of a little boy, or the whereabouts of an unknown woman.
This tale is far from cheerful but nonetheless compelling. The lives of Alice and Katherine becoming a product of some terrible confluence of events, something cruelly embedded in the scheme of things. Still the essential dilemma remains of what had happened to Katherine, if she didn't kill herself or wasn't murdered, why did she vanish? And was her story a desperate note a plea for someone to save her? Adding to the emotional impact of the story is George's dilemma, the loneliness, displacement and his overwhelming sadness, the memories of Teddy's murder forcing him to lead a life in a kind of no-man's-land between constant dread and sudden panic. Mike Leonard June 09.