I so want to rave about Eli Gottlieb's new novel, Now You See Him. It is elegantly written. Naturally. It's
Trouble is, if I rave, my reading audience will think I've lost my edge. So, here's the thing. I'm going to tell
you why you will think I've lost my edge, but before I do, I'm going to tell you that if you love good literature
with a little bite of mystery, you must - absolutely must - hang in there to the end of this book.
Now, here is where you are going to have trouble hanging on. Gottlieb's protagonist just isn't very likeable.
His day to day activities are boring. We don't sympathize much with his petty day to day problems, his excuses for
being self-absorbed. Perhaps he is too much like people in general. That's part of the design, too. There's really
no help for it. But you won't see that until the end.
Next up: The story is told in first person by Nick Framingham. He's the protagonist but then, so is his best
friend, Rob Caster, now dead, along with Kate, his girlfriend. Rob Caster is the real personality kid and seems to
be a protagonist in absentia. Because Gottlieb chose to tell the story this way (and there are good reasons why)
this mystery must somehow be not only related by Framingham, it must be made credible by Framingham.
That's a good trick if you can do it. And only a writer with Gottlieb's dexterity could pull it off. But, in the
doing of it, the story loses something. Framingham didn't witness the murder or much else, really. He must say
things like "that much we can surmise" and "Kate doubtless greeted him." Needless to say, we lose not only
immediacy but momentum. Again, there seems no other way around this because the story - the character arc - at the
root, is Framingham's. You'll see why at the end.
So, I recommend this book, indeed rave about it for those who love literary. For those who find phrases like
"the retaining wall of a woman's heart" and "salting a sponge with Ajax," you'll find the long wait to the end
wholly worthwhile. Original words, poetry really. That and the darn near perfect dialogue will hold you through
until that ending I spoke about, nicely foreshadowed (we are talking Gottlieb here!). It is well worth the wait.