YOU CAN’T CATCH ME is the fifth suspense novel signed by Rosamond Smith. Readers familiar with the fiction published by Joyce Carol Oates under her own name will inevitably be fascinated by the project of situating the works of Smith within the Oates canon. Readers who know only Rosamond Smith the suspense writer will find her in her latest novel a further basis for the claim that Rosamond Smith is the nearest thing to an American equivalent of Ruth Rendell, the current queen of British psychological suspense and an acknowledged enthusiast of Oates herself.
While on a visit to Philadelphia, Tristram Heade, a repressed and genteel book collector from Virginia, finds himself taken for one Angus Markham. He is, at first, mystified and confused by the ease with which people who seem at least acquainted with Markham fall into this error, but to be treated in the manner to which the worldly and sophisticated Markham appears to be accustomed has its attractions. Indeed, it has its seductions, and Tristram is soon committed to a scheme to rescue an inamorata of Markham from the brutality of her wealthy, powerful, and outwardly respectable husband. Before this action arrives at its ironic denouement, Tristram has, for better or worse, surprised in himself capacities for boldness, resolution, even a degree of ruthlessness, that seem to belong more appropriately to the absent Markham.
The many narrative twists and character complications introduced by the author should keep even the knowing reader in the state of adequate confusion most desirable in fiction of this kind. The rather mannered prose style, however, while not unmotivated, may sound to resisting readers suspiciously like the voice of a suspense writer determined to remind us that she remains a Serious Author. At worst, though, this constitutes a secondary irritant in a novel that does most of the important things well.