cover image The Caretaker

The Caretaker

Thomas William Simpson. Bantam Books, $22.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10052-5

This tale of long-brewing revenge is rife with characters who aren't who they seem, and takes place on the grounds of an old mansion containing secret passages, peepholes and hidden TV cameras. The trouble is that the revenge motive is revealed in the first paragraph, almost all the characters' true identities are exposed early on and the put-upon family is nothing short of obnoxious. Gunn Henderson Jr., a type-A ""control freak and a nut case,"" is an ace salesman recruited to run the sales campaign for a toy he's convinced will be ""the next craze."" While his wife, Samantha, prides herself on being a good mother, she can't keep her son from beating up on his younger sister. During the course of the novel, Sam goes from obtuse wimp to battered spouse to sex toy of Brady, the secretive and hunky caretaker of the Long Island mansion that's just one of the many perks provided by Gunn's new job. Brady begins his seduction of Sam during Gunn's frequent business trips. It's easy work, since he spouts charming Zen truisms and has a body like Adonis, which he flaunts every morning while swimming nude in the pool outside Sam's bedroom. Simpson's language is fast but utterly colorless, and he spends more energy in describing the psychopathic computer games Brady writes than on establishing anything like human character. A final twist threatens readers with the grim prospect of a sequel to this suspenseless would-be thriller. (Feb.)