Sunday, November 30, 2003

A stimulating but long-winded thriller
Aditya Sharma

by Lyndon Stacey. Hutchinson, London. Pages 360. £ 5.80.

BlindfoldLyndon Staceyís Blindfold belongs to that genre of suspense thrillers whose narrative runs parallel with the day-to-day incidents of real life. The plot of the novel, for that reason, isnít complex or replete with implausible incidents. Written in a lucid style, the story takes off with the abduction of the protagonist, Gideon, an animal behavioural scientist, in the very first page. As he is neither affluent nor has any enemies, Gideon finds his abduction rather strange, especially when his kidnappers order him to tame a stallion gone berserk. Frequently used to dealing with distressed and unpredictable animals, it is not a difficult task for him, but what makes it formidable, and even life threatening, is the fact that he has been blindfolded by his captors. Unable to see anything, he relies upon his instincts to quieten the horse with friendly gestures. Gradually, despite the insurmountable odds, Gideon manages to grab the reins of the agitated horse. The whole sequence is described picturesquely and in a manner that makes oneís hair stand on end.

After this ordeal Gideon is set free at night on a snow-laden road handcuffed, blindfolded and bereft of his boots. Somehow he manages to reach his home but is haunted by the sadistic motives behind his abduction.

Just as the readerís interest in the plot starts building up, the novelist looses his grip over the story. Page after page is devoted to all sorts of inconsequential details. At length Stacey sets out to describe the lives of other characters, which include his neighbours, friends, sister and Rachel, a girl who suddenly enters his life. She is married to a drunkard who is out on parole and keeps looking for her all the time. The novel would have been more tightly knit if these particulars had been described with economy.

It is only after the next 250 pages that the novelist picks up the threads of the abduction drama. A chance occurrence leads Gideon to a startling discovery about the perpetuators of his kidnapping and the causes behind it. It turns out that he had been made to tame the horse so as it could be surreptitiously employed for the purpose of artificial insemination. After this revelation, the struggle to hunt down the villains ensues. Amidst firing and explosions, verbal duels and other twists and turns, the obvious happens. The villain is finally caught in his hideout with the help of the police. It wonít seem surprising if all this reminds a seasoned film buff of a typical Hindi film.

The novel would find favour with those readers who have a voracious appetite for words. Those hard-pressed for time or looking for a speedy plot are likely to find its pace quite tedious. Had the novel been half its length, it would have certainly turned out to be more compact and absorbing.

Despite the daunting length the novel, it is riveting in parts. The most striking aspect of the novel is the novelistís eager eye for minutiae. While reading the story one frequently finds oneself in the thick of English life, which the author has graphically portrayed. Lyndon gets only a brief introduction in the book, as a result of which the readers are left guessing his particulars.