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Fog Heart, by Thomas Tessier, is a labyrinth. Written in a deliberate, enigmatic, twisting but never deceptive pattern, it that leads you to the inner torments of the characters, and somehow back out again. You come away changed by the experience of reading it.
Carrie is suddenly haunted by her dead father. Oliver, her debonair and, unknown to her, dangerously psychopathic husband doesn't take her seriously. Charley and Jan, another couple, seem to be getting messages from an infant daughter, dead for many years. Both couples find their individual ways to Oona, a mysterious young woman who proves to be a genuine medium, and her sister Roz. Eventually Oona senses that the four are somehow connected and brings them together to set off psychic sparks.
What in other hands could be hackneyed elements -- spiritualism, seances, ghosts -- are mixed with the horror of dysfunctional relationships, disturbing secrets, depraved sexual kinks, and sadistic psycho-killers to provide a complex framework for Tessier's elegant style. Vivid, lucid characterization brings the novel to life, but it's Tessier's perfectly placed, savage thrusts of violence -- his slicing explorations of human relationships, love, sex, and evil -- that make Fog Heart so stunningly effective.
Where others merely write -- Tessier works labyrinthine, transformative magic with words. Fog Heart is a path that must be explored.
ry progresses, he spends more and more time in Europe, firming up a new cloth he and a kinky German woman inventor/dominatrix are about to put on the market. At last, Oona invites both couples to visit her at the same time, which, she says, will increase the voltage of her performance—and it does, with deadly if appropriate results. Strong dialogue and a refusal to rely on bizarre occurrences to move the story along lend distinction to what might otherwise be a run-of-the-morgue horror novel.
The show was a bit of a disappointment, but Oliver always enjoyed being back in London. There were no real beauties to be had and he couldn't find much that he felt utterly compelled to get. No surprise: he knew that the best stamps always went to auction, and three or four times a year he had his dealer in New York buy or sell a truly special item for him.
Stamps were only a sideline with Oliver. But they had an aura of beauty and serenity, and to be surrounded by them in a place as large as Olympia was soothing indeed. The show just happened to coincide with a visit on other business, and he couldn't pass it up. Besides, the pleasure of the hunt was rich in itself, and did not always have to culminate in a rare find or a spectacular catch.
Oliver checked his watch and made his way to the bar, which was starting to fill up. He had a large Dewar's. He felt edgy in a good way. He was back in his city again. After Cambridge, he had come to London, managed a band that became a fair success for a year or two (he still received modest royalty cheques), invested in a label that continued to prosper, imported American jeans and selected lots of clothing that sold well, and in time he got into several other business ventures. Some were a little less profitable than others, but none lost money. He had a good nose for a fair risk.
Oliver was still, essentially, a maverick, an inspired dabbler who got by on his instincts, but by now he could not conceive of giving up his freedom for a more predictable and secure business career. Besides, he didn't need a regularpaycheque.
Now he wanted to do something. There was a party for the Limehouse Knights, a fairly new non-retro neo-post-ska ska band, currently on a roll in the UK, which should be fun — but that was later in the evening.
Oliver finished his drink and left Olympia. It was only a short walk back to the house. He let himself in. Nick and Jonna were off somewhere in the Camargue, supposedly scouting out locations for television ads. Which they were undoubtedly doing now and then, in the odd moments when they weren't busy eating, drinking and screwing their creative brains out. Lucky old Nick and Jonna — well, Nick anyway.
It was a shame to miss them this time around. He liked them both very much. They were long-time friends who ran a successful little film production company. Oliver had the use of their home in Kensington while he was in London. It was on a short terrace, set back from the High Street, overlooking Edwardes Square at the rear. It was actually the kind of house Oliver had wanted to own years ago, when he lived in London.
Now that he could afford to, of course, he didn't. He lived in Manhattan on the Upper West Side, nice enough, admittedly, and New York was a useful base for his many activities. But whenever he was at home for any length of time Oliver found himself trying to come up with reasons to be somewhere else.
Life on the road, no doubt a throwback to those crazy eleven months he'd spent driving the Bombsite Boys around Britain in the van, a different venue every night, dance halls, raucous pubs and grungy rock bars from Glasgow to Portsmouth. Rotten food, empty sex, endless drink, constant bitching, ego wars, troublesome cops and stroppy club owners who invariably refused to pay in full the agreed amount. Crewe, Derby, Slough, Blackburn, Cheadle, Poole, Brighton, Wolverhampton, Cardiff and too many others — oh, yes, Oliver could still remember every wretched stop on that hideous, never-ending tour.
Best year of his life, really.
He called Carrie, but she was out of the office. Lunchtime in New York, and so to be expected.
Oliver took off his shoes, sat in the large leather armchair and watched the lines of traffic down on the High Street. Should he get another Scotch? Nick had an excellent selection of single malts. Later. He shut his eyes and slept for exactly forty-five minutes, an old trick he had mastered on the road trip.
He took a hot shower, dressed and then tried Carrie again. Now it appeared that she would be out of the office on business for the rest of the afternoon. No matter. He should try to get on better terms with the receptionists there, but they stayed for only a month or two and then left. Hopeless.
Tomorrow he had a late-morning flight to Munich, to keep the vastly talented and desperately insecure Marthe Frenssen in line. They had so much to accomplish before someone else discovered the amazing things she could do with raw flax and linen weaves.
So this was his night on the town. Oliver had a vindaloo at a nearly empty Indian place on Abingdon Road, and then took a cab to Piccadilly. The Esquire was a bit drearier than it had seemed on his last visit. He downed a short and left.
Things were much livelier at the Miranda, on Kingly Street. The doorman recognized him, or at least pretended he did. Inside, downstairs, the late-night crowd was beginning to gather. Here was the old London Oliver knew and, in a way, almost adored. There was something vaguely seedy about it, and yet it had a kind of low glamour. The décor was out of date by a couple of decades but the place was so dark and smoky you didn't notice. The food was hardly memorable, but the floor-show made up for it.
The women were young, pretty and well shaped, and when they weren't busy dancing they mingled without being pushy. They came from places like Southampton and Reading and Peterborough. They wanted to enjoy the fast life in London, have torrid affairs with exciting young men on the make, make some money, catch a break, and, eventually, when they grew tired of it all, land a reasonably reliable gent who had a job in the City and a deposit on a lovely mock-Tudor in one of the better parts of Surrey. If he owned the house and already had a wife installed, that was acceptable too, as long as he could afford to dislodge the incumbent and not lose everything in the process. Hardly any of these women had the bad luck of falling in love to the tune of a net financial loss.
The men were mid-range business types, entrepreneurs, hearty marketeers treating their out-of-town customers, has-beens with a modicum of buoyancy left, villains with their docile flunkeys and dangerous apprentices, and a few deep-pocketed old geezers in for some genteel slap and tickle. It was a crowd that could be merry and loud or strangely tense, but was seldom merely dull.
Oliver fancied himself somewhat apart from the others. They were regulars, and he was an outsider who dropped in from time to time. The club was part of their normal routine, whereas for him it was an occasional rest-stop. He chatted with some of the women, but he didn't buy them a drink from the gilt-edged suckers' menu. He usually ended up discussing markets and trade with one or two businessmen, and he often got a useful indication of how the trends were going before it appeared as an official fact in the FT indexes. Most of these men had had their hopes broken more than once, and would again, keeping at it until the day they fell down for good. He knew that what separated him from them was largely a matter of luck.
Oliver stayed a little over an hour. A waste of time, perhaps, and yet it didn't bother him. On the contrary, visiting this club always seemed to make him feel better, in some way he couldn't quite understand. The Miranda was a lingering pocket of myth, the London of the fifties and sixties, the London of Ruth Ellis, the Krays, Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, of Rachman and his thuggish winklers, a London that stretched from John Christie to the Beatles and the Stones. By the time Oliver had begun to hear of it late in his childhood it had been fading into dubious legend, and he'd always had the feeling that he'd missed something.
He gave the taxi driver a card with the address in Limehouse and sat back for the ride. He still had good connections in the music industry, and on most trips to London he could expect to be invited to at least one party. The music business was ever hard and merciless. Denmark Street rules still applied. A kid could write a string of hit singles and still have to scrounge for the cost of a pint. You lived on beans on toast, a squirt of sauce, and by the time you got your hands on money real enough to put in a bank account, you were ancient history. Make way for the new. Oliver was happy to be out of it on a day-to-day basis, and the only thing he missed was the fun of watching unvarnished kids make new music before the grind wore them out.
The party was in a converted warehouse, although what it had been converted to was hard to tell. The crowd was large and many more people were streaming in. The stereo system was cranked up high. There were long tables of food and barrels of quality beer. Say what you want about record companies, but they still knew how to throw a proper piss-up. Oliver wandered around aimlessly for a while, spotting old hands like Marianne Faithfull, Dave Davies, Brian Ferry and a bespangled Gary Glitter.
Eventually he caught up with Ian. Ian was his contact, the name to give at the door. Years ago, he had been a scruffy kid from Woking who couldn't quite master rhythm guitar. But he was bright and eager, and Oliver had given him a useful nudge at the right time. Now Ian was a highly regarded studio soundman, about due for his first major production job. He would probably have found his way there anyhow, but he was eternally grateful to Oliver. People with memory were rare in the business.
They swapped bits of personal news and work talk, and got up to date with each other. It had been three months since Oliver's last visit. As usual they vowed to have lunch or dinner the next time, definitely, schedules permitting.
Oliver didn't mind being left on his own. He picked at the mounds of shrimp and smoked salmon, he sipped Greene King beer and wandered around idly, nodding to some of the same magazine hacks he used to court in an effort to win column inches for his band. They still scoffed free nosh and booze frantically.
He skimmed the surface of the party. After a while, he sat down in an overstuffed old armchair, one of several that were scattered around the perimeter of the huge room. Within a minute or two a young woman came along and perched on its fat arm. She leaned back and sighed. `I hope you don't mind.'
`Not at all,' he said.
`Only my feet are killing me.'
`Do you want to take the seat and I'll take the arm?'
`Oh, you are sweet.'
They traded places, and she promptly rested her head against his body, just above the hip. She fanned herself with the press booklet that told you more than you would ever want to know about the Limehouse Knights. She was on the tall side, a little skinny and angular. She had short hair and a short skirt, long legs and small breasts. Her name was Becky Something-Something. She was an assistant features editor at a glossy women's magazine. Music was part of her turf. She loved London, loved the scene, got ten invites a week and went to every one of them. Oliver smiled. He knew what it was like to be in your early twenties in London, to connect, to plug into the action. You really live and your life is electric, even if you're only one of the minor players on the fringe — as this girl was.
Why tell her how soon it jades and fades? Perhaps she'll be one of the lucky few and for her it won't. She wouldn't believe him, anyway.
Oliver got her a fresh drink. Becky seemed mildly impressed when she heard that he was part-owner of a record label, and she promised to see that future Redbird releases were reviewed in her magazine.
She was even more impressed when he told her he lived in New York and did a little import-export in the rag trade. Exotic shirts and jeans were acceptable. Becky's father, it turned out, had made a fortune on plastic macs, and they were definitely not.
Becky didn't like her father, it seemed, but then she said that he chipped in on her rent — otherwise she'd have to share a flat and she'd tried that and it was bloody awful. So she had her own place, and when she asked Oliver where he was staying in town he knew that he could fuck her if he wanted.
`With some friends,' he said. `It's handy, I come and go as I please. But ...' And that was enough to imply in some way that he couldn't take her there.
No problem. They shared a taxi back into the West End, and along the way Becky asked him if he wanted to come in for coffee or a nightcap. Well, yes, that would be nice. She wasn't pretty in the obvious ways but there was something attractive about her. How she moved, her height, the angular gawkiness that she fought mightily to overcome — as if she still didn't know quite what to do with her body. Oliver did.
So he found himself in a small but tidy flat at the back end of Maida Vale, sipping plonk. One sip was enough. And they were stretched out together on a rather hard sofa, Becky with her head resting on Oliver's chest. When he found her breasts, he stroked them lightly. `So, what's the trouble with your dad?'
`What do you mean?'
`Why do you hate him?'
`What makes you think I do?'
`I don't know. Do you?'
`I don't much care for him, put it that way.'
`What did he do to you?'
`What didn't he? I mean, it wasn't sexual, but ...'
`He beat you, then.'
`Not exactly, no.'
`What else is there?'
`He — oh God, never mind. It's embarrassing.'
`That's all right. You can tell me.'
`I don't want to ...'
But she did, and the drink in her helped.
`It's not your fault, love.'
`I used to think it was.'
`Never. It's never a child's fault.'
`He used to give me enemas,' she blurted out, with rather too much high drama in her voice. `All the time, and not just when I was little. When I got older, he still kept at it.'
Oliver willed himself to be still, otherwise he'd erupt in laughter. Enemas! `You think that wasn't sexual?'
`It was a health thing with him.'
`Sugar coating, with a little kink inside.'
`Could be. But at least he didn't make me wear one of those bloody macs. That would've been flat-out perv.'
`When did it stop?'
`When I turned thirteen. I stopped it.'
`He was serious about health, a real fanatic. And still is. Like, you should chew everything fifty times.'
`And posture. That was another thing. It used to drive me crazy, trying to stand and sit and walk what he called the right way. Which was impossible.'
`The Alexander technique.' Small wonder Becky still had a hard time carrying her body around.
`Did you go through all this rubbish too?'
`No, but I've heard of it.'
`Bastard. Don't know why I still love him.'
He couldn't see her face, but he touched her cheek just near the eye and felt a bit of moisture.
`Tell him how you feel about it. Let him have it full bore. It'd do you a world of good. Clear the air.'
`Very American, I suppose.'
`Charterhouse, actually. I learned the hard way too.'
She shook her head. `He'd never speak to me again.'
`You'd feel a lot better.'
`I feel better now,' she said, squirming happily beneath his touch. `You're very nice. And comfy.'
They thrashed around on the sofa for a while, staggered into her small bedroom and fell together onto the bed. They lost some of their clothes in the process, made love quickly and furiously, and then they cuddled and kissed gently, resting.
A little later, Oliver explored her body at a more leisurely pace, administering nip-and-peck kisses to her nipples, belly and thighs. Such long legs, such a long flat tummy. She had rather small breasts, but they were high and firm, still girlish.
Oliver licked her. She didn't know what to do with him, and her awkwardness was beginning to tell. Never mind, darling, some women never learn head — even long after they've become addicted to getting it. English women especially, or so it seemed. Maybe that was why Oliver had married a Yank. Becky began to cry. She held him there, wouldn't let him move. Or stop.
Eventually her hands slipped away and she seemed to sag into herself, dazed. Oliver rolled her over and took her from behind. Slow, gentle, sweet. He wet his fingertip and rimmed her with it tentatively. A long deep moan. A little more, and he could feel the moan in her body now, as strong and resonant as a cello chord from Bach. Yes, Daddy. Becky seemed to fly straight from orgasm into sleep.
One thing: Oliver could never sleep in situations like that. He would lie there afterwards, eyes open or shut, awake. Thinking it was all kind of stupid, though he didn't know why or how, just that it felt that way. Wondering if she would fall in love with him — but, then, they all did. They wanted him to stay for ever or they wanted to follow him back to America. Stay, and stay as tender and frank and understanding and loving as you were, as you really really are. And eat me eat me eat me every night.
Oliver turned his head and stared at her in the grey light. Hair mussed, she did look pretty. Yes, darling, you have a right to some kind of a life, something approximating happiness, all of the usual milestones and millstones. A career, marriage, a house and kids. Click the menu, and make sure you get your full share. Some day, soon perhaps, you'll even get to bury the old bastard in some dreary Midlands plot. Sell his house and all his things, and never visit his grave.
He wanted to wake her and tell her. Becky, Rebecca, my dear child, Something-Something. It will be all right. You are good, you are pretty. You see? It is worthwhile. In a way. Somehow. I believe. I do. And so ... And so ...
Enemas, for God's sake. How on earth had he managed to keep a straight face? A triumph, really.
She had such a lovely long neck. Such an exquisite throat. Slender, elegant. There was some kind of powerful erotic magic in it, irresistible. Don't forget the people at the party, don't forget the taxi driver. There are a million important factors to consider in the tiniest of moves.
Oliver slipped his fingers around her throat and he squeezed with great gentleness, so as not to wake her.
Such a feeling. Something to think about. Again.
Because, Christ — it would be so easy.
Posted January 15, 2015
Posted June 4, 2000
I loved this book. It had well-developed, interesting, and non-conventional characters. And it had several goosebump-inducing moments. This is a great book for lovers of the supernatural. It's filled with spooky sequences, unexpected twists, and beautiful language.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.