Nick and Caroline Exley appear to be living a charmed life. Nick is a successful computer guru who’s designed a cutting edge, and very profitable, motion-capture program. And while it has been a while since her last big success, Caroline is a working author. Together with their daughter, Sunny, the Exleys live in a lavish beach house in a gated community on the South African coast.
Things are not always as they appear, of course, as is demonstrated with devastating consequences at the party thrown for Sunny’s fourth birthday. As the guests dwindle and twilight sets in, Nick finds himself on the back deck smoking weed with a friend while Caroline is inside having a tryst with her lover…both of them ignoring Sunny.
Vernon Saul is not ignoring Sunny. In fact, the former policeman turned security guard is sitting on the rocks along the edge of the ocean watching as Sunny takes her new toy sailboat down to the water. When the boat is pulled away from the shore by the current, Vernon continues to watch when Sunny goes in after the boat, only to get dragged under the icy water. And still he watches.
It’s not until the frantic parents, finally realizing that Sunny is unaccounted for, pull the little girl from the ocean that Vernon does more than watch. Though it’s quite obvious to him Sunny is dead, he nevertheless puts on a show of trying to revive her for the Exleys and the remaining guests. Despite his lack of success, he’s still regaled as a hero for his efforts and take-charge attitude when everyone else was falling apart. Nick in particular finds himself feeling indebted to Vernon, and it’s a debt on which Vernon is more than willing to collect.
A stark reflection on the insidious nature of guilt and grief, author Roger Smith’s latest offering, Capture, explores some of the darkest aspects of the human mind and soul. What drives a man to become so jaded he’d let a child die just to work an angle with her rich parents? How does grief twist someone so badly they lash out in the most violent manner possible at those supposedly closest to them? Exactly where is the line one says they will never cross…and how far will they then go to cover it up once they not only step over it, but rush headlong past it? Smith deftly and unflinchingly handles these questions through his cast of disturbingly believable flawed characters, demonstrating that no matter what level of society one comes from it is our basest emotions and instincts that are ultimately the great equalizer.
Smith is an unparalleled master at making ugly beautiful and repulsive appealing. He has to be, because on the surface there is very little beautiful or appealing about Capture, yet it’s one of the most deeply satisfying books I’ve read this year. Don’t be surprised to see it amongst my Top 10 of 2012 come year’s end.