Deja vu feel to this 'thriller'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 May, 1998, 12:00am

If all reviews on book jackets are to be believed, this would be one of those excellent thrillers that shoot up the bestsellers lists in no time. Unfortunately, they cannot all be taken at face value.

That, perhaps, is one of the main reasons why The Caretaker was so disappointing. A feeling of deja vu permeates most of the book: halfway through, it begins to dawn that Simpson has adapted tales from Hollywood thrillers - or books - and put them in The Caretaker as little sub-plots.

The main theme is that greed and pride are often precursors to a downfall and that the sins of the parents are often visited upon the children. Interspersed with these two themes are shades of Sliver, Devil's Advocate and perhaps a touch of Psycho.

Gunn Henderson is one of the world's greatest smooth-talkers, a born salesman. Having sold everything from vacuum cleaners to photocopiers, Henderson thinks he has hit the big time when a mysterious employer turns up and offers him the dream of a lifetime.

As national sales strategist for Creative Marketing Enterprises, he would be pulling in US$250,000 a year, have an exclusive country club membership, private schooling for his children and a luxurious country house on Long Island with a cook, chauffeur and caretaker.

It sounds too good to be true. Henderson is positively on cloud nine when he is given a sexy assistant to keep him company on sales trips. While he is having a good time on the road, his wife, Sam, however, finds solace in their thoughtful, sensitive, good-looking caretaker Brady, not knowing that there is more to the set-up than meets the eye.

Brady is a malevolent force from Henderson's past. Henderson slighted him when he was a boy. Brady's father was also destroyed by Henderson senior. Nurturing a deep-seated hatred, Brady has plotted an elaborate scheme to elicit some measure of revenge.

So he plots his seduction of Sam by swimming naked in the morning when he knows she is watching, lurking in secret corridors and spying on the Hendersons making love.

Although Simpson would have us believe that it is all an intricately planned charade by a psychopath, a lot of what happens is left to chance, luck and coincidence.

A wholly terrifying thriller this is not. Brady's part in the game is revealed early on.

There is a twist at the end, but it is a worn formula that leaves the reader unsatisfied.

The Caretaker by Thomas William Simpson Bantam, $230