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Ghost Image ()

For his first novel, former Reagan speechwriter Joshua Gilder has attempted something quite difficult, writing from the perspective of an untrustworthy narrator. Most of the best instances of this device--Nabokov's Pale Fire; John Lanchester's Debt to Pleasure; and Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis--use it to some comedic effect, but in Mr. Gilder's case it is used to deepen a mystery. Young Dr. Jackson Maebry, a plastic surgery resident in San Francisco, is in the ER one night when his girlfriend is brought in after having been beaten almost beyond recognition, rolled in a carpet and set afire. As he and his mentor try to piece her back together again, Maebry also tries to solve the crime.

The great pleasure of the book lies in the sense of the mysterious that it creates, so I'll try not to get into much detail. Suffice it to say that as the investigation unfolds, the police, the reader, and even Maebry himself begin to suspect that he may be involved, may even be insane. Here Mr. Gilder succeeds quite well in creating a murk that we want to penetrate. However, Maebry is such a needy character and is so emotionally strung out that he frequently becomes annoying. That's not such a good thing, especially in a narrator. Having pursued such a high risk tactic in his debut novel, it's no surprise that Mr. Gilder's results are a bit uneven. And had he not set the bar so high he might not have achieved as much as he does.

On balance, the book functions well enough as a mystery and a mood piece that it's well worth reading, but what it really does is hold out the promise that Mr. Gilder has the talent for even better books in him.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Joshua Gilder Links:

    -REVIEW: of Surprised by Beauty: A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music By Robert R. Reilly (Joshua Gilder, National Review)
    -INTERVIEW: with Joshua Gilder (Kate Shulman, Politics and Prose)
    -INTERVIEW: Introducing our new featured author, Joshua Gilder.Ê Author of Ghost Image, an exciting and breath-taking new thriller! (New Mystery Reader)
-PROFILE: Joshua Gilder: New Novelist Makes Waves (NewsMax, 12/02/02)
    -REVIEW: of Ghost Image (Patrick Anderson, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Ghost Image (NANDITA KHANNA, Washingtonian)

Book-related and General Links: