You Can't Catch Me

Rosamond Smith, Author Dutton Books $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-525-93947-4
Even readers unaware that Smith (Soul/Mate) is the pseudonymous Joyce Carol Oates will note that this ingenious, seductive tale of murder and madness boasts a seasoned literary sensibility, beginning with its opening phrase: ``Tristram Heade's tragic adventure began inauspiciously, and surely by chance....''). Tristram, a reclusive Virginia bachelor and antiquarian book collector, visits Philadelphia on business. There, his life takes a bizarre turn when he is mistaken by hotel personnel for shady gambler and real-estate speculator Angus T. Markham. Not only does Tristram find Markham's suitcase, clothes and dagger in his room, but he is soon visited by the tearful but exotic and lovely Fleur Grunwald, a black-clad mystery woman who also insists that Tristram is Markham-and her sometime lover. Enchanted, Tristram decides to play along and assumes the identity of Markham, with fatal results. To his astonishment, Fleur soon reveals herself as a split personality, with her alter ego, Zoe, emerging through a ``low, throaty, singsong, seductive voice'' to describe the alleged tortures of Fleur's sadistic husband, Otto, a philanthropist and misogynist whose abuses include the inscribing into Zoe's flesh of a byzantine maze of grotesque tattoos. His sense of justice inflamed, Tristram determines to free Zoe/Fleur from her sufferings by killing Otto. The plot, strewn with twists and corpses, is also laden with coincidences and symbolic devices that create an air of artifice. Nevertheless, Smith/Oates has written yet another novel that will keep readers awake through the wee hours, and guessing until the last page. BOMC and QPB selection. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1995
Release date: 03/01/1995
Mass Market Paperbound - 304 pages - 978-0-451-40682-8
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