by Lisa Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you hunger for a fairly ordinary plot with typical characters twisted around so you can barely recognize them, read Lisa Moore’s Caught (Grove Press 2014). Dave Slaney breaks out of prison after serving four years for a pot heist-gone-bad. The cops–led by non-detective Patterson–know where he is, but let him escape, more interested in his drug contacts than getting him back into prison. Along the way to meeting his old partner, Slaney ingratiates himself into the lives of a wide variety of everyday people who ignore the fact that he’s a fugitive from justice and simply enjoy the experience of getting to know this man.
The plot has few surprises, but Moore’s atypical voice and writing style make this worth reading. First, there’s no dialogue in the entire book (it’s shared as narrative). Here’s what it sounds like:
“Oh hello, he said. He got back into the driver’s seat and felt around in his pockets for some gum and he offered Slaney a piece and Slaney said, No thanks.”
Second, there’s a tenuous relationship between past and present, whether we’re experiencing events through Slaney or Patterson. Time is constantly mixed up as though each character isn’t sure if he lives in the here and now or the past, or maybe they simply haven’t come to terms with their personal history. Then, there’s the way Moore builds her characters, as though based on whatever catches her eye at the moment:
“His sweat had a smell so singular he half loved it and was, at the same time, felled by the shame. “
“He took out one of the five plaid shirts and it was covered in cellophane and folded around a piece of cardboard, held in place with a number of straight pins [the story is set in the 1960’s]. He took the pins out and laid them on the armrest where they shivered and rolled.”
You get the feeling, be it characters or plot, it’s as much stream of consciousness as story development. This sentence–that takes an entire paragraph to unfold–gives you a sense of that:
“Life coming at them through a fire hose; jackhammering them with Technicolor everything and they both understood that the paisley pattern on Hearn’s [Slaney’s partner in crime] shirt, each gorgeous swirl vibrating a neon crimson, was a link in an infinite chain that telescoped through wormholes of time and they realized that time is simultaneously in motion and inert and the engine of it all seemed to be Hearn’s heart pulsing, calm and sure, under the paisley and they spoke about the wonder of it, and became morose and weeping because the swirling pattern was teeming with life…”
The sentence goes on for a few dozen more words. I left it more confused than enlightened.
Ultimately, the theme, though, has nothing to do with escaping from prison and getting rich. It’s about Slaney’s love for his family; his sense that what he’s doing is less about breaking the law than building relationships. Through that lens, the story makes sense.
If you read the snippets I’ve included above and are enthralled, then you’ll consider Caught to be an otherwise boring plot with typical characters made spectacular through the eyes of the author.
More atypical thrillers:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.