I'm treading on new ground here. Inspirational, or Christian literature, isn't what I usually read. No explosions, no vampires, no karate, no heaving bosoms. What's left to like? Well, as I discovered after I found GHOST WRITER on my doorstep, quite a bit, actually.
GHOST WRITER concerns itself with Jonathan Harper, a senior editor for a publishing house who is in a bit of a jam. Clyde Baxter, their bread-and-butter author, has retired, and they are casting about for new faces. Harper hasn't been much help. The last six or so books he has brought to the house have stiffed, and his 20-year marriage appears to be going the same way. Harper feels the need to demonstrate that he still has the touch, in more ways than one; he feels an attraction toward a coworker and is perilously close to acting upon it.
Two things occur that bring conflict --- and resolution --- to bear upon Harper. Baxter contacts Harper and advises that he is coming out of retirement to write one last book. The book, dealing with a Hannibal-type serial killer, is a marked departure from Baxter's earlier Westerns, but Harper finds it as compelling as anything Baxter has ever written. At the same time, Harper begins receiving serial manuscripts from an anonymous writer. The manuscripts describe in painful detail every aspect of Harper's life, almost as if the writer is beside him for every moment of the day. Harper initially suspects Baxter to be the author; it is clear, however, that the details described are too intimate for Baxter to know. Who is the author? And why is this being done to Harper? This issue, and Harper's multiple professional and personal dilemmas, seem too much for him to resolve. By himself, at least.
GHOST WRITER is actually three novels in one, consisting of the main narrative, extended passages from Baxter's final novel, and the mysterious manuscript that Harper keeps receiving in installments. While the presentation of Baxter's novel occasionally interrupts the flow of the narrative of the main story, Gutteridge wisely knows where to stop and bring things back on track. And the explanation for the events in GHOST WRITER, while a bit strained, is ultimately plausible. Most importantly, however, GHOST WRITER presents the basic premise that, yes, people sometimes do resist temptation. And are the better for it.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 1, 2000