Jonathan Carroll's narratives are constructed like those innocuous-seeming rooms in Doom
, bright and tranquil until the player reaches a hidden trigger-line and swarming horrors erupt from the walls. With Carroll, the trigger- lines are spiritual. A glittering career, an exciting project and a blissful new sexual relationship are generally bad signs, and the narrator has all three. Sam Bayer is a successful writer just emerging from inspirational drought to tackle a real-life story, the mystery of the small-town teenage sexpot whose drowned body he was first to find, when only 15. Was the right man convicted? Meanwhile Bayer's latest lady-love, an obsessive fan of his work, helps, hinders and also scares him with glimpses of her chequered past. An apparent serial killer with a strong interest in the old murder sends Bayer cheerful communications--"Hi Sam!"--uncannily monitoring his daily life and progress. Stalking elusive truths through poignant or baleful childhood memories, our hero feels his life tilting into nightmare. Many Carroll novels twist at this stage into dazzling reinterpretations that invoke magic or madness; here the ultimate surprise is more conventional, even predictable. Not quite top-flight Carroll, but still an unusual and haunting thriller. --David Langford
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A powerful literary novel from an internationally acclaimed author
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