Onyx reviews: Indigo
by Graham Joyce
Ask an artist how many colors make up the visible spectrum and the answer
will be seven. A scientist, however, will say that there are only six. The
missing color is indigo, a mythical hue that supposedly exists between blue and
The quest to see indigo is the driving force behind Graham Joyce's newest novel,
billed as a literary thriller. Joyce has won the British Fantasy Award three
times and his new American publishers seem to be trying to help him break into a
larger market here by downplaying the fantastic elements in this novel. Still, Indigo dances precariously on the edge of multiple genres. There are
too many unexplainable occurrences for it to be considered a "straight" novel.
Not that that is a bad thing. Joyce is a skilled stylist who deserves a wider
Jack Chambers is appointed the executor of his father Tim's estate, which comes
as a surprise since he has not spoken to the wealthy eccentric in nearly two
decades. The terms of the will are specific but difficult. He must dispose of
properties in both Chicago and Rome, track down an heir, and get his father's
manuscript published. If Jack is to see any compensation as executor he must
follow all of the will's clauses explicitly.
The manuscript, entitled Invisibility: A Manual of Light, is a
seven-step program designed to train readers to see the mystical color indigo.
Once they have achieved this goal, they will be able to become invisible to
others. Excerpts from Invisibility are scattered throughout the text
of Indigo, permitting the reader to see first-hand the increasingly
bizarre steps in Tim Chambers' philosophy. Chambers' book reads at times like a
personal letter from father to son, a passing on of the torch.
A former British bobby currently working as a process server in England, Jack
has problems of his own. He quit his previous job because he has
"bobby-eye," the disturbing ability to see the corruption and lies in
everyone he meets. Lately, though, he has begun cutting corners in his new
profession, which has its own very exacting set of regulations. He escapes to
Chicago to carry out the execution of his father's will.
His life is further complicated when he meets his half-sister, Louise, a single
mother with a two-year-old son. He had pointedly ignored her on their first
meeting when she was eleven. She has since blossomed into a beautiful woman and
Jack cannot ignore his growing fondness for her, a forbidden attraction that his
half-sister appears to reciprocate. They travel together to Rome as a family to
locate the missing heir, Natalie Shearer.
Jack learns that an American painter disappeared on the same day that an Italian
sculptor committed suicide. These events took place on a pagan holiday on which
untrained individuals can see indigo, according to Invisibility.
Both artists were members of his father's inner circle.
In Rome, Jack becomes intimately involved with Natalie Shearer, a mysterious and
dangerous beauty, one of his father's former lovers and a follower of the cult
of indigo. Jack disappears after he starts following the rituals in Invisibility while simultaneously trying to juggle his relationships
with Natalie and Louise.
Indigo is a taut, sophisticated thriller, with an adeptly executed
original premise. Both Chicago and Rome breathe like characters. The novel
suffers, perhaps, by trying to be less of a fantasy than Joyce's previous books.
Untold mysteries lurk beneath the skin of each page without becoming fully
realized. In spite of this restraint, Joyce paints realistic, flawed and
sophisticated characters in a richly imagined landscape.
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