You Can't Catch Me

Overview

The moment genteel Southern bachelor Tristram Heade arrives in Philadelphia in search of a rare book, a mysterious metamorphosis begins. He is mistaken everywhere for a man of whom he has never heard but soon comes to know fearfully well. His diabolical double is everything he is not: a high-living playboy and insatiable womanizer who goes by the name of Angus T. Markham. The horrified Tristram Heade does his unsuccessful best to correct this macabre mistake - until an achingly lovely young woman comes to his ...
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Overview

The moment genteel Southern bachelor Tristram Heade arrives in Philadelphia in search of a rare book, a mysterious metamorphosis begins. He is mistaken everywhere for a man of whom he has never heard but soon comes to know fearfully well. His diabolical double is everything he is not: a high-living playboy and insatiable womanizer who goes by the name of Angus T. Markham. The horrified Tristram Heade does his unsuccessful best to correct this macabre mistake - until an achingly lovely young woman comes to his hotel room to yield at last to Angus T. Markham's desire. Heade abandons all attempts to deny what is now his desire as well - and with this act, abandons his last hold on the guidelines of his past. He is in a time and place where all things are possible, and nothing is forbidden. Tristram Heade follows the ravishing Fleur Grunwald into a world where pleasure and pain intermingle. Where the naked truth about her and her marriage is obscured by lies as intricately woven as the tattoos that cover her exquisite body. And where her startling shifts from outraged innocence to shameless sensuality make Tristram Heade stronger and weaker than he has ever been. He has become both her avenger and her slave.

While visiting Philadelphia, Tristram is mistaken for a womanizing businessman whom he has never met. Assuming this man's identity to rescue a mysterious woman from her sadistic husband, Tristram enters a seamy underworld of sexual obsession and murder where nothing is what it seems.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Even readers unaware that Smith (Soul/Mate) is the pseudonymous Joyce Carol Oates will note that this ingenious, seductive tale of murder and madness boasts a seasoned literary sensibility, beginning with its opening phrase: ``Tristram Heade's tragic adventure began inauspiciously, and surely by chance....''). Tristram, a reclusive Virginia bachelor and antiquarian book collector, visits Philadelphia on business. There, his life takes a bizarre turn when he is mistaken by hotel personnel for shady gambler and real-estate speculator Angus T. Markham. Not only does Tristram find Markham's suitcase, clothes and dagger in his room, but he is soon visited by the tearful but exotic and lovely Fleur Grunwald, a black-clad mystery woman who also insists that Tristram is Markham-and her sometime lover. Enchanted, Tristram decides to play along and assumes the identity of Markham, with fatal results. To his astonishment, Fleur soon reveals herself as a split personality, with her alter ego, Zoe, emerging through a ``low, throaty, singsong, seductive voice'' to describe the alleged tortures of Fleur's sadistic husband, Otto, a philanthropist and misogynist whose abuses include the inscribing into Zoe's flesh of a byzantine maze of grotesque tattoos. His sense of justice inflamed, Tristram determines to free Zoe/Fleur from her sufferings by killing Otto. The plot, strewn with twists and corpses, is also laden with coincidences and symbolic devices that create an air of artifice. Nevertheless, Smith/Oates has written yet another novel that will keep readers awake through the wee hours, and guessing until the last page. BOMC and QPB selection. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Tristram Heade travels to Philadelphia to buy a rare book, and strange things begin happening. A train porter hands him a wallet, supposedly his, but inside is identification for an Angus Markham. On impulse, Heade registers at a hotel where he is greeted as Markham. Later, Markham's luggage arrives in his room. In the middle of the night, he is awakened by a beautiful woman come to beg his, or rather Markham's, protection from her rich, sadistic husband. Who is this Markham, and why is Heade starting to act as he believes Markham would? This is a tense psychological suspense novel filled with dual identities, double crosses, and duplicity. It is also filled with philosophical and literary allusions suggesting that this is less about the mystery of Markham than about the fragile mystery of identity. It's just what one would expect from the celebrated Joyce Carol Oates, who uses the pseudonym "Rosamond Smith" for her psychological thrillers. Highly recommended.-Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Brad Hooper
It's been said before, and bears repeating, that Joyce Carol Oates' psychological thrillers (written under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith) aren't as convincing as those of the master, Ruth Rendell. "You Can't Catch Me" is further proof. Thirty-five, single, born into a distinguished Virginia family, Tristram Heade travels by train to Philadelphia to keep an appointment with a rare-book dealer. Upon departing the Philadelphia station, Tristram undergoes the equivalent of Alice stepping through the looking glass: in his case, entering a world in which his identity is mistaken. Not only does the hotel staff believe him to be one Angus Markham, Tristram finds himself in possession of some of Markham's belongings. Tristram soon takes on not only the accoutrements of Markham's life, but his personality as well. When it comes to taking on Markham's girlfriend and her marital and personality problems, to which he willingly assents, Tristram is soon adrift on the high seas of conspiracy to murder. Trouble is, the reader faces difficulty believing this transformation; Smith/Oates hasn't the magician's flair of a Rendell--readers won't fully accept this rather incredible situation. Still, on a surface level, the narrative never stalls, and the Oates-as-Smith angle will draw many thriller readers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525939474
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/1995
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.83 (h) x 0.87 (d)

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