Kay asks herself, "can I account for Maddy's meaningless
shots, which look more like failed surveillance photos than the
work of an important artist / photographer?"
Then Kay asks herself the same questions that Maddy used to
ask her students: "What's there? What's the feeling?
What was she trying to convey?" Kay studies the photos
from a distance, and suddenly, "the answer comes to me with
striking clarity. Menace, depravity, even evil--that's
what's in her pictures, that's what they're all about."
Kay returns to her mentor's hideaway room and finds a notebook
in a sweater pocket. Many of the notes seem to have been written
in the dark, and most of them don't make sense. But one grabs
Kay's attention: "THE GUN / FIND THE GUN / WHERE'S THE GUN?"
Tantalizing, but still no clear explanation. Then, after days
of useless watching (another film antecedent: Jimmy Stewart as
the voyeuristic photographer in Rear Window), a light
comes on in the suspect room, and Kay finds herself eavesdropping
on what appears to be a sex party. Except the people are doing
some strange things with what looks like...a gun, if it's
not a trick of light.
Hunt is a strong,
confident writer, and he lets Trick of Light advance at
a slow, seductive pace that subtly draws the reader into its
spell (in film terms, think here of the hypnotic camerawork in
Hitchcock's Vertigo--like Trick of Light, set in
San Francisco). And--perhaps best of all--his teasing, seductive
pace matches up beautifully to one of his central themes: what,
we are ultimately asked, is it that we see, exactly? And
how do we ever know that our perceptions match up to the world
that (in most cases, at least) generates our perceptions? The
everyday world seems so steady, so obvious, but once you begin
questioning its veracity--or your own capacity to catch its elusive
truths--it becomes a shady, uncertain place, seductive in its
mysteries yet dangerous for the very fact that it's unknowable.
While Trick of Light is as addictive a page-turner
as any other thriller on the market today, somewhere along the
way it quietly becomes something more: a serious, subtly complicated
novel that offers its audience a disturbingly unsettling take
on what the world around us may really be like. (Or, for
that matter, who the people we love really are.) It's
a neat trick, really, to draw an audience into a circus tent
with the promise of exotic thrills and send them back out with
a disturbing realization that they were themselves the exotica
on display. That he's able to do it so subtly is a mark of Hunt's
talents as a writer.
For readers looking for an intelligent thriller that doesn't
rush madly from one explosion to the next, this novel is close