Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, March 15, 2010

"The Dark House" by John Sedgwick

This book caught my eye on It sounded like a book my mother would not approve of. It's about a Peeping Tom of sorts, involves an old murder and secrets of the past, and the author is likened to Ian McEwan--what more could I want? The warning in bold face on the back of the book, "Don't read this book alone at night," only made me want to read it more.

As so often happens, this book was not what I expected. First of all, it never got creepy enough that reading it alone at night would have been a problem. (Boo hiss!) Second of all, the main character (Rollins, the Peeping Tom) was really, really weird. I mean, yeah, you have to figure a Peeping Tom would be somewhat weird, but this one is painfully awkward and bizarrely antisocial in a passive way. I had trouble understanding him and connecting with him. Though, now that I think about it, perhaps that was intentional, as pretty much everyone in the book had the same problem. I certainly couldn't see why in the world Marj put up with him. And third, the story seemed to be a rather pedestrian potboiler thinly disguised as a psychological oddity. Reading it was like observing a split personality in the strange love child of Dean Koontz and Sigmund Freud.

I don't know whether to complain that this book was predictable, or to bemoan the fact that so often the plot seemed to be going in a certain direction and then just . . . didn't. So many times the author seemed to be building up to a tense and mysterious revelation, but then he would stop short and take the most obvious route. Rollins would get himself deeper and deeper into a situation that could mean hot water for him even though he was innocent (being alone in his apartment with his neighbor's young daughter? being alone in the house with his dad when his dad shot himself?) and I would be thinking, Oh no, they're going to think he did something . . . and then no one gave his odd behavior a second thought.

There were times that Rollins' attempts to unlock the secrets of his past with the help of his patchy memory reminded me of one of my favorite reads, The Amnesiac, but somehow this one wasn't nearly as delicious.


LuAnn said...

Don't you just love reading books your mother (or father) wouldn't approve of?! Even as an adult, there's still that little bit of guilty pleasure.

Kathy said...

I know!! Often their disapproval makes something just that much more interesting . . .