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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer


The Caretaker

By Thomas William Simpson
Bantam Books, 561pp, 1998

This book is very similar to Goodlow's Ghosts, except it's not a ghost story. It's a lighthearted and fun suspense thriller. Like Goodlow, it's not very serious, or even that good, but it's an enjoyable read nonetheless.

Samantha Henderson is a stay-at-home, busy with shuttling her son and daughter to school and dance lessons and piano lessons, and dealing with a jerk of a husband, Gunn. He is a salesman, charming and witty when necessary, bossy, condescending, and rude the rest of the time.

In fact, Gunn is so unlikable that it's hard to believe Sam has put with him for so long - 15 years.

Anyway, Gunn gets a job offer he can't refuse - selling THE hot new toy for a six-figure base income and living in a seaside mansion complete with a cook, limo driver, and caretaker. It's an offer they couldn't refuse.

Simpson presents it very well. Early in the book, when Mr. Reilly, Gunn's new boss, is telling them that Gunn, if hired, would be traveling quite a bit, and would that be a problem? Sam is hesitant, since she doesn't want her children's father gone too much, but then Reilly tells them the mansion in The Hamptons would be their home. As Simpson put it, "that's when Samantha Ann Quincy Henderson redefined sacrifice."

Simpson employs this device throughout the book, dropping little hints and clues. We know right away the whole job offer and job itself is a scam. We know Gunn Henderson somehow winds up in jail. We know Brady, the caretaker, isn't everything he seems to be (same with the cook).

The device is entertaining but too intrusive. It's the author showing how clever he is. The characters are not telling their story, the author is showing off his plotting skills.

But what the hey. It's fun, and I only paid a couple bucks for the book at a used bookstore.

Anyway, the rest of the book is fairly conventional, and could be sub-titled The Tempting of Gunn and Samantha Henderson. Brady the caretaker is the tempter, and in Sam's case, the seducer (are you surprised?).

The Caretaker is worth a trip to the library, a pleasant few days worth of reading, and a breezy read. That's about it.

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