Cover image for Caught in the light : a novel
Caught in the light : a novel
Goddard, Robert.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt, 1999.

Physical Description:
342 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

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On assignment in Vienna, photographer Ian Jarrett falls suddenly and desperately in love with a woman he has met purely by chance, Marian Esguard. Back in England, he separates from his wife and goes to meet Marian at an agreed-upon rendezvous, only to hear her tell him on the telephone that she will not be coming after all. She then vanishes from his life as mysteriously as she entered it. Searching frantically for the woman for whom he has sacrificed everything, Jarrett stumbles upon a Dorset churchyard full of gravestones of dead Esguards. He meets Daphne Sanger, a psychotherapist, who is also looking for someone: a former patient who has come to believe she is the reincarnation of Marian Esguard - a woman who lived in Regency times and, it emerges, may have invented photography ten years before Fox Talbot. But why is Marian Esguard unknown to history? And who and where is the woman Ian Jarrett met and fell in love with in Vienna?

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Mix the psychological intensity of Ruth Rendell with the otherworldly aura of Hitchcock's Vertigo, and you have an inkling of what's in store for the reader of Goddard's latest thriller. English photographer Ian Jarrett is on assignment in Vienna when he meets a woman who calls herself Marian Esguard. Their attraction is immediate, and the passion they share is overwhelming. They agree to meet in England after Jarrett informs his wife that their already crumbling marriage is over, but when he arrives at the rendezvous, Marian has disappeared. Jarrett begins a desperate search that leads him to a Dorset graveyard where generations of Esguards are buried. Marian, it emerges, lived in the nineteenth century and may have invented photography before Fox Talbot. Was the woman Jarrett met in Vienna the reincarnation of this pioneer photographer, or is there a rational explanation for the mystery? The trail leads first to a psychotherapist who has been treating Marian and eventually to an elaborate plot designed to extract a bizarre form of revenge on the unsuspecting Jarrett. Jumping from Jarrett's story to the life of the real Marian Esguard in Regency England, Goddard holds the reader in thrall, not only with his architecturally sublime plot but also with his reflections on the history of photography--photography as science, as art, and as metaphor. As the story hurtles to its inevitably tragic conclusion, we first suspend disbelief and then find ourselves craving belief--in reincarnation, yes, but even more in the ability of individuals to escape the vice of history and to somehow exert power over forces beyond their control. A truly multidimensional, wonderfully textured thriller, certain to be one of the year's best. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

British writer Goddard has achieved a steady readership here with his atmospheric novels (Into the Blue; Beyond Recall) in which characters unravel a mystery in their pasts. Photography illuminates his new narrative as it spirals from a simple tale of a lonely man searching for his lover to a complex study of obsessions spanning two centuries. While on assignment in Vienna, photographer Ian Jarrett becomes enamored with a woman who calls herself Marian Esguard. He returns to England to inform his wife and daughter that he is leaving them, but his next rendezvous with his paramour never occurs; she disappears, and it turns out that his photographs have been exposed and ruined. His personal and professional life destroyed, Ian pursues his lover, learning that she is a fraud who has claimed the identity of a 19th-century gentlewoman with a talent for chemistry who may have discovered photography decades before the accredited Fox Talbot. Propelled by a psychiatrist with secrets of her own, Ian unmasks murder, deception, blackmail and theft over many decades, while reconsidering his own life as well. With more twists and bumps than an English country road, the convoluted plot swerves from modern mystery to Regency romance to psychological thriller, with Ian experiencing danger and tragedy and bitter regret. What gives cohesion to the story is the lovingly detailed account of the art and science of photography. Goddard takes us to the other side of the lens, showing how composition, light and story can unite to make a great photograph, then traces the history of the process with stops along the way at the 1851 World's Fair, a corporate magnate's London headquarters and Sotheby's. Whether the mystery woman is a heroine reincarnated or evil incarnate proves less compelling than how the magic of photography triumphs over time. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved