Every now and again, you read a book that is truly original – not perhaps the best-written book ever, or the sort of book that will win literary prizes, but a book that really sticks in the mind for years. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow is one example, and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo another. For “R” in this series, I am choosing such a book – Total Eclipse by Liz Rigbey, which I read back in 1995. It’s a novel I’ve kept since then and shall definitely read again one day.
The story is about a group of astronomers in northern California, one of whom, Julia, is accused of murder. Despite the seemingly cast-iron evidence against her, Lomax (another of the group, and in love with Julia) decides to prove her innocent of the crime. The rest of the novel tells the story of this task. This is a very exciting novel indeed. It was so refreshing to read a convincing novel about scientists, by an author who had certainly done her research. Another aspect that struck me at the time (but perhaps would not seem so strange 15 years after the novel was written) was that all the characters Lomax encounters on his journey to uncover the truth are female, representing a range of professions. The outcome of the novel perhaps does not quite match up to the suspense and the telling of it, but it's nevertheless a superb read.
The Wall Street journal said of this novel: “gripping, creepy, moving and suspenseful….This one-of-a-kind book is a comedy of manners, a sexually charged romance, a science problem, a detective story, a courtroom thriller – and one heck of an impressive debut”.
Of course I eagerly awaited Liz Rigbey’s next novel, which came along in 2003, called Summertime. This novel was also very good, about a woman’s search to find out why someone murdered her father, a retired geology professor, and in the process discovers hidden truths about her own past. Although I recommend this book as a superior thriller, it does not have quite the impact of Total Eclipse.
Looking to see if Liz Rigbey has written any more books since then, I see she (now called “Elizabeth” Rigbey) has written one other novel, The Hunting Season, in 2007. From the blurb: “The rugged Rocky Mountains are a place some go to hide inside, some to escape into and others to hunt in. Dr Matt Seleckis has never been one for the woods: he remembers his childhood vacations there with his mother and father; and the looming threat of an unexplained death. Now Matt lives in Utah with his wife and young son. Yet the prospect of a hunting trip alone with his father is bringing back dark, unwelcome memories of a certain vacation, of his beloved parents. And of a hushed-up tragedy that he’s sure concerns him. But with the arrival of these unsettling memories comes the creeping realisation that in nature, death for the unwary lies around every corner.” One I shall be ordering!
Liz Rigbey does not appear to have her own website, and it's not that easy to find reviews of her novels.
Publisher website (Penguin) for Summertime and The Hunting Season. Total Eclipse was published by Orion, but does not feature on the publisher's current website.