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The Certain Knot of Peace
Thomas Fahy's Night Visions

Thomas Fahy's debut thriller offers an intriguing blend of serial killers and J.S. Bach, but the finale is ultimately less satisfying than the set-up.

Thomas Fahy’s debut thriller, Night Visions, has nearly enough momentum to stave off a reader’s growing concern that the plot might not be as strong as it promises in the early pages.

But those early pages certainly are strong.

In a series of quick scenes, we witness two grisly murders that share a common theme: each of the victims has been crucified upside down. Then Fahy cuts to his lawyer protagonist, Samantha Ranvali, who has just awoken from a dream and found herself, again, in the grip of sleep paralysis.

It’s a recurring problem for her: insomnia mixes with nightmares to make her waking life unsettled and disturbed. Throw in the fact that she is still recovering from the breakup of a significant relationship and we have that set-up all Hollywood scripts require: a character in jeopardy.

Within pages, the ex-boyfriend resurfaces with a strong (if not highly original) call to adventure. He’s working for a corporation that “specializes in investigative work for high-profile clients,” and he needs Sam’s help tracking down a wealthy family’s missing daughter. After initial misgivings, Sam agrees to help.

But will they find the woman in time?

Fahy does strong work tying the missing woman’s case in to the crucifixion-themed serial killings, which continue to accumulate at a gruesome, sometimes breathless pace. And since the murders are separated by both distance and time but march closer and closer to the novel’s present, they offer themselves as a time-based puzzle for readers to solve.

To sweeten the reader’s experience, Fahy introduces an intriguing twist: Bach’s Goldberg Variations were commissioned by an insomniac seeking a soothing cure, and many of the serial killer victims (themselves insomniacs) were listening to the Variations when they were killed. A little research suggests that, in some strange (possibly supernatural) way, the Variations and the murders may be connected….but how?

A story that combines Glenn Gould recordings and a slasher-flick body count would seem to offer the perfect balance between guilty pleasures and heady intellectual pursuits.

The problem is that it takes a while to turn the corner, plot-wise, and readers who pay close attention to the characters and dates in the various flashbacks will crack the puzzle before Fahy’s characters do. (And that’s never a good thing.)

Other problems occur. The ease with which Samantha slips into crime scenes seems a little improbable, to put it mildly, and the cops tend to talk like they’re TV cops rather than real cops.

Still, it’s an entertaining way to pass an evening, even if it doesn’t ultimately live up to the complex puzzle it initially seems to be offering.

—Review by Woody Arbunkle

Posted December 12, 2004



About the Author

Thomas Fahy received a Ph.D. in literature from the University of North Carolinia at Chapel Hill and currently lives on the California coast, where he is working on the sequel to Night Visions.



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