Graham Joyce
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Graham Joyce
240 pages
December 1999
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Dark-fantasy author Graham Joyce (Requiem, Dark Sister) makes his play for acceptance by mainstream thriller readers with Indigo. A short novel that shows a lot of promise initially, Indigo unfortunately ends with something of a whimper. Despite its plot failings, though, Indigo remains an intriguing (if not slam-bang-thrilling) story.

Curled Up With a Good BookLondon process-server Jack Chambers learns that his estranged father has died. Named executor of the estate, Jack travels to Chicago to learn the details of the will and to leave some unpleasant business behind in England. Jack himself will not inherit the bulk of Tim Chambers' impressive estate, but will receive an executor's fee provided he carries out the will's instructions to the letter. On the face of things, it seems an easy task. There are apartments in Chicago and Rome to be sold, proceeds going to one Natalie Shearer, and a manuscript to be published and distributed. Jack starts the ball rolling on the Chicago apartment with the help of his half-sister Louise, whom he hasn't seen since she was a pre-teen.

It doesn't take long for things to get weird for Jack once he's taken a look at his father's unpublished manuscript. Purporting to be a manual toward achieving invisibility, the book describes a regimen by which a person may develop the facility to see the color indigo. A color artists believe in and scientists deny, indigo is key to more than merely becoming hidden from sight. According to Jack's late father, seeing indigo can open entirely new doors of perception. Fighting and feeding his growing taboo attraction to Louise, Jack asks her to accompany him to Rome to help sell the apartment and find Natalie Shearer. Louise agrees, and she and her toddler son fly to Italy with Jack.

When Jack finds the artist Natalie Shearer, he begins a surreal affair heightened by her intimate familiarity with Tim Chambers' indigo fascination. As Jack follows his father's instructions, his world opens on bizarre new vistas that may expand his mind or might leave him floating dead in the Tiber. Where the world is both more and less than it appears, he discovers disturbing insights into the character of the man who delighted in manipulating others but never learned to love his children.

Graham Joyce enters some uncomfortable territory in Indigo. Especially disquieting is Jack's initial lust for Louise; you keep hoping they'll find out they're not really related. If nothing else, though, this book is worth reading for the excerpts from Tim Chambers' manual. Early on, there are some simple exercises that seem like they might be worth trying to see if your visual senses really might change. Try it if you're looking for a quick read with a unique premise (but only if you are also willing to sacrifice some plot satisfaction).

© 2000 by Sharon Schulz-Elsing for Curled Up With a Good Book

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