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Review by
Philip Robinson
by Graham Joyce
Pocket Books
ISBN - 0 671 03937 7

In his author's note, Joyce introduces us to an intriguing question: Does the colour Indigo actually exist? Scientists will tell us it doesn't, but artists will say it does. And from this stems an even more incredible notion - is invisibility possible?

Jack Chambers, a process server working in London, is surprised to learn that the father he hasn't seen in twenty years has died and appointed him the executor of his will. Not standing to gain an awful lot from the will itself - namely whatever's left after everything else is done - Jack takes the appointment more to flee his jaded work in Britain, than for monetary gain. He finds himself in Chicago, and here Joyce makes wonderful use of the 'Englishman in America' routine, and we see Chicago through Jack's sardonic, straightforward, no bullshit eyes.

Very rapidly, Jack discovers that - love him or hate him - his father was an incredible man.

Assisting Jack is his father's daughter, Louise, whom he's met only briefly in the past, and a delicious sexual tension develops between the two…the half-sibling relationship not exactly helping the situation. The book opens with a meeting between Jack, Louise, and the main beneficiary of the will, the mysterious Natalie Shearer - they've managed to track her down to a private hospital just outside of Rome…and the woman's behaviour towards them is very…disturbing, to say the least.

The book then jumps back six months, and the strange individual from the hospital is nothing compared to the Natalie Shearer Jack encounters for the first time in her Rome studio…in stark contrast she is a beautiful, strong artist with a sharp wit and a cutting tongue: "I used to be a nanny. But I was always getting fired because all the daddies wanted to fuck me."

As with Chicago, Joyce builds well on the exotic Italian location, showing us the architecture of ancient Rome which is sinking under the weight of the modern city.

The plot is twisted and holds plenty of surprises, and right to the end we are kept wondering.

The novel is interspersed with chapters from a manuscript written by Jack's father - a book which he claims holds the key to invisibility, and one stipulation of his will is that this manuscript is to be published with an initial print run of 200,000 copies. This task alone is enough to give Jack a headache. And are the exercises described within the gibberish they appear to be, the nonsense he'd expect from a man like his father, or is there more to them?

Relatively minor characters such as Natalie Shearer, artist Nick Chadbourne, and Louise's mother Dory, are colourfully drawn, not to mention the depiction of Jack's dominating father himself, and overall this short novel is a pleasure to read. There is a ghostly presence hovering throughout the book…a nice, haunted feeling…and it's clear that Jack is going through a major change of outlook on life.

Joyce is not a writer content to simply rehash his previous books. INDIGO is a million miles away from the wonderful THE TOOTH FAIRY, but his unique voice makes this book is just as enticing. There are one or two contrived moments, and a little stilted dialogue, but these minor quibbles are nothing to detract from the overall impact of this book which, incidentally, claimed the British Fantasy Society's August Derleth award for best novel 2000.

An intelligent, satisfying read.

4 BookWyrms

This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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