Another charity shop find, and one that the interweb tells me is a rarity as this book is now out of print, despite its success and subsequent made for TV movie.
The quote from The Times on the front calls it: “A Dark, watery masterpiece ….. suffused with sexuality” and the blurb reads:
Tim Cornish, a creative writing student, sits composing a confession: an admission of a crime committed two years ago that has yet to be discovered.
“It began when he first encountered Ivo, a magnetic man, older than himself, and felt compelled to kiss him. By the time they travel together to Alaska’s great glacial wastes, Tim has fallen in and out of love with Ivo; his real passion is now only for Isabel whom he has met in Ivo’s absence. The horror of Tim’s subsequent journey with Ivo, battling with disgust and despair, may endure in his memory forever.”
I’ve never read any Barbara Vine books before, so I wasn’t aware that she is/was the alter-ego of Ruth Rendell, mystery-writer extraodinaire and creator of Inspector Wexford from the telly (never seen it. The only cop who wears a raincoat is Columbo in my opinion). So I imagined there might be some intrigue and twists to be had inside the pages.
I wasn’t wrong. Crikey I wasn’t wrong.
Now I like a nice (dichotomy I know) unsympathetic main character, but I wasn’t prepared to dis/like Tim Cornish in quite the way I did. The way his character is handled, with subtle precision and with such insights into the mind of a person (not just gay men, as I can attest during reading) who is obsessed with another person, is something that at times rather stopped me short with an “Oh god, I’ve thought/felt that way before” which although reassuring, is also slightly worrying.
It’s fair to say that this is a slow-burn. The whole backstory of despondant student Tim and his passion for brooding professor Ivo is entirely necessary and without it, the remainder of the twisty-turny, edge-of-seaty story would not have been able to hinge – it’s a firework of a book – light it, step back and wait – but under no circumstances go back if all you see are spits and sparks to start with – be patient – wait – you WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!
8/10 deeply emotional and psychologically disturbing