Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A modern masterpiece of psychological suspense.


By Roger Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Capture, along with Dust Devils, have been released on February 20th, 2014 by the exceptional publishing company New Pulp Press. As both books will attest, South African author Roger Smith is an exciting writer of literary suspense and one that is well deserving of a larger audience. Dust Devils in a action-packed thriller with strong socio-political overtones while Capture is a slower paced but equally riveting descent into psychopathology and dysfunctional relationships. Both are highly recommended yet I found Capture to be slightly better due to its tight grasp of human nature and the high quality of psychological suspense.

Vernon Saul is a ex-police officer now rent-a-cop who sees a small child drowning on a private beach. For reasons that will slowly unravel, he does nothing until he knows it is too late then acts like a rescuing hero. While the child was drowning, the child's father, Nick Exley was smoking a joint with a friend while her mother Caroline Exley was having an

I love the way the novel develops. Vernon is the most interesting if also most revolting character in the book. We know little about him at first but, between his "friendship" with Nick and his more direct control of a young mother and her child, we are both fascinated and repulsed by him. Vernon carried an unhealthy need for power and control with more than a tinge of sadism involved. Nick and the young mother Dawn easily fall into his web and the results are harrowing in the edge-of-your-seat way a suspense novel should be.

The other characters are no less full dimensional. Nick seems to be a good person but weak and dependent. Caroline has a history of mental illness and a strong selfish streak. Dawn is an ex-junkie who works in a strip joint while trying to care for her child that she just received by from Child Welfare. In some ways, she seems to be the most understandable; a woman who childhood and mistakes have dug her deep in a hole yet having a love for her child that makes her want to redeem herself even if she is not sure how. None of the characters are truly likable but their weaknesses and problems are the kind that keeps a story believable and alive. There is a great supporting cast of corrupt cops, low-lifes and good intentioned acquaintances. The author knows how to bring alive even the most minor characters.

Roger Smith reminds me a lot of Patricia Highsmith. He can take not-so-likable people and place them in situations that causes them to struggle with the part of them that isn't too nice to look at. But unlike Highsmith, I think Roger Smith has a better grasp on the more noble corners of the mind that helps a person fight through their fears and temptations. Yes, Smith is cynical and dark but his novels are not hopeless. He has a good sense of the human dilemma that we all struggle through in more mundane ways. Even though we may not be dealing with infidelity, corruption and murder, Smith's themes will still feel uncomfortably familiar. This book gets my highest recommendation.
affair with her lover in the house. Vernon becomes friends with Nick and reveals a talent for manipulating the father's grief and guilt over the death. As Vernon's hold on Nick grows, the consequences become more severe and deadly.

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