Sunday, 29 May 2011
"But it's all a bit Grand Guignol, don't you think?"
U.S. Marshal's visit a secure psychiatric institution on an island when a patient escapes from a seemingly locked room. There are strange rumours surrounding the institute as well as water.
Gradually we find that one of the marshals has ulterior motives and that one of the patients is intimated involved in a tragedy from his personal life. It becomes clear that more is going on than first meets the eye.
This book is full of codes and clues and the sense that there will be a key that will make sense of it all. Hints are dropped with apparent Nazi's and military intelligence connections hinted at as well as a level of security that doesn't seem to fit.
There is an undercurrent of religious imagery - the noises made by men in a dormitory are at first irritating but 'After a while, the noise achieved a kind of comfortable rhythm that reminded Teddy of a muffled hymn.' The storms that besets the island is described as 'God's gift. .. His violence.' and a tree which falls through the roof is described as if it "reached toward me like a divine hand."
Religion, family, psychiatry, murders.. how can it go wrong. Well it does. The whole thing feels a bit stretched and I was left feeling a sense of being cheated. Just like it's easy to create a riddle or code to give a particular answer so it's easy to lead readers on a wild goose chase. The only issue is whether they'll go on another with you.
For me the characters never really convinced - their passions, like their characters, were a bit cartoonish, like ham actors. A real suspension of belief is required and really, it is a suspension bridge too far.