by Linda StankardFebruary, 2001
Is it voyeurism if the voyeur, the watcher, has permission to watch? Television shows like Survivor reel in huge audiences by giving viewers the sense that they have a secret window to the participant's personal, private moments. But if someone knows they are being watched, in fact, invites the viewing, perhaps the table turns, the exhibitionist holds the cards, and the mesmerized voyeur becomes victim to the exhibitionist. David Ellis uses this seductive cat and mouse game to the hilt in his tautly crafted, provocative first novel, Line of Vision.
The protagonist, Marty Kalish, is a successful investment banker who has been to law school. He knows enough about law, lawyers and police matters to make him either smart enough to get away with murder or too smart for his own good. We're not sure which. This is because the story is told in first person and while Kalish is devilishly fascinating, he may not be the most reliable source for helping us determine his guilt or innocence. For one thing, he lies.
For another, he seems to have an inability to accept responsibility and achieve fulfilling relationships, even with close family members. (In a sense, he became an unwitting "voyeur" as a child, and a witness to a haunting secret he harbors deep inside.) And finally, he's an outright Peeping Tom lurking outside Rachel Reindhard's house in the cold and dark, waiting to see her in the window. "A grown man sneaking outside a married woman's house. Pathetic. Depraved. Perverted. All of the above?" he asks himself and we are not sure of the answer, having become voyeurs ourselves watching him watch her! Deciding whether Kalish is a hero or a hedonist is part of the intrigue of this novel, and Ellis does a remarkable job of keeping us in suspense on all fronts until the final, riveting pages.
Line of Vision is a legal thriller, complete with lawyer wrangling, questions of evidence and a hair-raising courtroom drama, but it is also a character study in which the mystery of Kalish the man is as spellbinding as the mystery surrounding the murder. An action-packed page-turner, this book will not only make you wonder "who is watching whom?" but force you to question the morality of looking just because there is something titillating to see. Is it sometimes wise, we must ask, to limit our own "line of vision"? Linda Stankard writes from Cookeville, Tennessee.