Review

Now You See Him

by Eli Gottlieb

“When I ask myself why the life and death of my old
friend and his lover blew up into a rolling national media
storm…the only conclusion I can come to is that it must have
been the universal appeal of the whole thing that turned
people’s heads. It had good looks, talent, the New York
skyline and a bad end.”

Indeed, it has all that --- and more. Rob Castor, Nick
Framingham’s closest childhood friend, has done a shocking
thing. It appears as if he killed his ex-lover and then himself. It
looks that way, but did he?

Time nearly stops for Nick, as he reflects on what brought his old
pal to such a state. Were there signs that he --- and everyone
else, for that matter --- missed? Sure, Rob was suffering from
writer’s block, but that shouldn’t drive a person to
suicide. Sure, his latest girlfriend, Kate Pierce, had left him for
a much older, much less attractive man, but was murder really the
answer? Rob had had plenty of women in his life, women much more
stunning than Kate, and had never gone wanting for a companion to
share his bed. Did his writer’s block extend into the
bedroom?

In the process of trying to understand how Rob ended up as he did,
Nick decides to take a closer look at his own life and the
direction it should take. He knows that he has been going through
the motions with Lucy, his beautiful wife. Rob’s death makes
Nick sit up and pay attention. As he comes out of his fog, it
occurs to him that it might be possible to salvage his sagging
marriage. But Lucy has turned cold and unyielding, and has begun
holding Nick’s sons as emotional ransom. How long has she
been trying to reach him, and how far back was it that Nick lost
touch? Maybe it’s too late for them after all.

As Nick works to figure out what he really wants, Rob’s
sister Belinda drops back into his life. A bawdy and flamboyant
woman addicted to substances and drama --- and totally devastated
by her brother’s death --- Belinda arrives with a need to
recover the happiness of their childhood. They were a threesome
back in the good old days, like a tiny sexless army attacking the
streets of the town. Now Belinda uses Nick as a conduit to
Rob’s memory and a placebo for the pain. Her mother
can’t help; she is coping with the loss of her son in her own
way. She is escaping deeper into the bottle she long ago grew fond
of and spitting vituperative insults at everyone in the hope that
her pain will go away by hurling it onto others, notably Nick.
Belinda is a welcome diversion.

But then along comes a spoiler, Mac, an old buddy of both Nick and
Rob and a thorn in Nick’s side. As a writer of some little
fame, Mac found common ground with Rob and sparked a persistent
jealousy in Nick. Now Mac has elbowed his way into a contract to
write the definitive book on Rob Castor, an honor that brings out
the worst in him, traits that didn’t lurk far below the
surface. False congeniality, blatant flattery, vast quantities of
booze --- he offers all of it with little compunction.

By now, Nick and the rest of the world appear to be on a collision
course. He can’t please his wife, doesn’t care to help
Mac and has been alternately drawing Belinda toward him and shoving
her away. When he runs out of ways to alienate those nearest him,
Nick turns on his parents, with whom he always had a somewhat rocky
relationship but never quite knew why. He is about to find
out.

With characters so uniquely drawn and a story so perfectly paced,
NOW YOU SEE HIM is more than engrossing --- it is totally
consuming. Eli Gottlieb, whose 1997 debut novel THE BOY WHO WENT
AWAY won the prestigious Rome Prize and was a New York
Times
Notable book, exhibits an amazing talent for mixing
intelligent humor with a thriller of rare substance. Everything
about his sophomore effort is brilliant; there is simply nothing
wrong with this book. We can only hope that another decade
doesn’t go by before we become absorbed in Gottlieb’s
third work of fiction.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 13, 2011

Now You See Him
by Eli Gottlieb

  • Publication Date: January 22, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0061284645
  • ISBN-13: 9780061284649