A DESOLATE, STORM-SWEPT
BEACH IN WINTER...
TWO MEN, ONE YOUNG, ONE
OLDER, PLAYING A GAME OF CAT
IT'S NO GAME. CHRIS NIELSON IS
FIGHTING FOR HIS LIFE.
Rock guitarist Chris Nielson is between gigs. Way between gigs. His musical and personal lives have turned sour, and he's looking for a way to regroup, to stimulate his creative juices, to decide what's next in his floundering twenty-something existence.
When his father's rich friend Ted Harper offers him a house-sitting job at his palatial Maryland beach house, it seems like the perfect answer. Ted needs somebody to live there over the winter, to keep away intruders. Hooligans caused damage last year. With Chris and his dog, Charlie, on the premises, the place should be safe. Ted's only demands: stay the whole winter, respect his property, and don't leave the house untended.
The house is eerie, foreboding. It's cold and lonely, especially at night. But the setting, an isolated sandbar separated from the mainland by a one-lane bridge off an unmarked road, is invigorating. There's also an intriguing neighbor. Caroline is from California and has fled to Maryland to escape an abusive boyfriend.
Caroline invites Chris for dinner. They share a love for music, maybe something more. But is Caroline who she seems to be? And what about Ted Harper? Where does he get his money? What's his story? When Chris finds things in the house that don't make sense, he begins to suspect that Ted is playing a horrible game with him. Maybe Chris will wake up and the bad dream will go away. Maybe this is just the worst rehab he could imagine. Or maybe something sinister is about to happen, an insane man's demented plot in which Chris, himself, is the target.
When it was originally published more than thirty years ago, John Fowles's The Magus captivated readers with its enigmatic and magical story of a young man caught in a web of political and sexual betrayal, filled with hallucinations, riddles, and mental games. Inspired by that novel and those of contemporary masters of suspense, John Maxwell's brilliant debut is a richly woven and wholly original take on the traditional psychological thriller.
This debut about a 20-something slacker held captive on a remote island starts leaking its intrigue about halfway through and never regains it. The slacker is Chris Nielson, adrift after being dumped by his girlfriend and fired by his rock band. Hoping to take a break from drugs, write a few songs and relax while pondering his future, Nielson accepts a job house-sitting on a sparsely populated island off the Maryland coast for his father's rich friend, Ted Harper. While lounging around, Nielson strikes up a friendship with the island's only other inhabitant, the mysterious but attractive Caroline. Soon, however, he discovers that something's not right with Caroline, nor with Harper, a man who reveals one eccentricity after another. While prowling through the house, Chris discovers his employer has an extremely violent side. Harper, in turn, finds that Chris has been poking around and doesn't like it. Along with a couple of hired thugs, he returns to the island. Once there, Harper holds Chris prisoner and puts him to work digging up beach weeds and playing the cello. It's at this point that Maxwell's tantalizing narrative starts to lose its grip. The pace slows, the plot grows freakish and Harper evolves into a tiresome psychopath whose motivations and reasonings are never fully explained. Maxwell, a sound recordist for film and television, gamely tries to tie it all together in the homestretch, but muddies it up again with a bloodbath finale that leaves one wondering what it was all about. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 01, 2003
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Excerpt from Point Fury by John Maxwell
"Well, hello there, and I guess you must be Chris," Ted Harper said at the door in a booming, deep voice, and speaking with the same jovial, disarming Southern twang that Chris had first noticed at a gas and coffee pit stop somewhere in or near the state of Delaware.
"Hi, Mr. Harper, it's nice to meet you," Chris managed to answer, while returning an almost painfully strong handshake from his new landlord -- or employer.
Standing face-to-face, Chris thought that Ted Harper looked almost exactly the way he'd imagined: a big, heavyset man with sturdy features, pink skin, and white hair, dressed for a late-fall weekend at the beach in a stiff, yellow, button-down shirt, gray cardigan, and khaki pants with a bright green belt. Chris even thought he had pictured the gold Rolex and class ring; the man looked like all of Chris's father's old friends from college: successful, conservative, Ivy League businessmen. Ted Harper was merely the Dixie version.
"Well, come in, come in. How was the drive, okay?" At last he released Chris's hand, and then he opened the door to his stunning summer place.
Chris hadn't thought about the house very much, but even if he had, he wouldn't have come up with anything like the modern, austere, beachfront mansion he'd driven up to. It was the kind of thing you would see flipping through the pages of Modern Architecture or the real estate section of the Sunday Times, never quite believing anyone actually lived there. Ted Harper had apparently started out in business as an investment banker, but had then gone on to create his own shipping company, underwriting other companies' importing and exporting ventures... or something like that. Chris's father had explained it to him, presenting it as something he should be impressed with. Now Chris could understand why.
The house was on an island sandbar that jutted off the mainland with the ocean on one side and a small bay on the other. To get there, he'd had to drive over a little one-lane bridge after turning onto an unnamed road -- following directions he'd taken by phone and scrawled onto the back of an envelope and then only just barely remembered to bring when he left. It was a good thing he had, since neither the road nor the place itself seemed to exist on the road map he'd bought. Beyond the bridge there was nothing except for three other houses he could see off in the distance; aside from that, only bulrushes, beach grass, some stunted-looking pines, maybe two or three other types of plants and bushes he couldn't identify; and, of course, beach: lots and lots of it, pristine, unblemished, white, and sandy. The whole setup gave him a twinge of something that was either disgust or jealousy.
Inside, the house was all open spaces, dark woods, and bright white surfaces. The enormous main room, a combined living room and kitchen and dining room, had a wall of almost continuous glass looking out over green dunes to the ocean, and ceilings that Chris estimated to be fourteen feet easily at their highest point. Crossing over it upstairs, also facing the view, was a balcony with a silver metal railing, lending the whole place the feel of something between a fine yacht and a space station.
Mr. Harper led him to a carpeted, sunken living room area next to the great expanse of windows, where he held out his hand to a white canvas and chrome couch.