cover image Indigo: A Thriller

Indigo: A Thriller

Graham Joyce. Pocket Books, $23.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-671-03937-0

Erstwhile fantasy novelist Joyce (Requiem; Dark Sister) switches genres with this enticing, if finally underwhelming, work of literary intrigue. Jack Chambers, a London process server, is summoned to Chicago after the death of his mysterious father, whose will mandates that Jack arrange to publish a manuscript called ""Invisibility: A Manual of Light."" In Chicago, Jack also meets his attractive half-sister Louise and her young son, Billy. Soon Jack, Louise and Billy are in Rome, where the secrets of Jack's father's life emerge: the elder Chambers led a secret cult of artists, who sought the power of invisibility through psychological and surgical practices related to the elusive color indigo. The cult's efforts, Jack discovers, have resulted in ""one psychotic, one suicide, and one dead junky."" As Jack investigates its sinister workings, his illicit passion for Louise grows. Joyce's asides on perception and science can fascinate; sections of the manual's delightfully convincing arcane text appear as little chapters of their own. His writing is fine though sometimes precious in its symbolisms. Lupine themes from Roman myth and history jostle uneasily with the color codings; the two sets of metaphorical connections are too much for this short novel to sustain. Nor does the plot keep its initial vigor. Joyce offers (though he doesn't quite insist on) plausible explanations for all his supernatural events, but by the end, magic has become mere allegory, suspicious schemes acquire quotidian explanations, and the fantasy is aborted, contained by a disappointingly thin psychology. (Jan.)