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Staring at the Light Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140298452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140298451
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,466,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief? Well, perhaps not, but the array of characters Frances Fyfield collects in Staring at the Light are equally varied: lawyer, dentist, IRA bomber, artist, nun....

A maverick London lawyer, Sarah Fortune finds herself protecting Cannon Smith, a talented artist with a prison record, a wife he loves deeply, and an unfortunate handicap: a twin brother, Johnny, whose need to believe that he is the most important figure in Cannon's life sails effortlessly beyond the threshold of mental health and into psychopathy. Long ago, the brothers were inseparable, but now they've taken different paths--and Johnny doesn't like that at all. He is determined to bring Cannon back to him, and no one is exempt from playing a pawn in his murderous game: not Sarah; not her Aunt Pauline, a nun who is sheltering Cannon's terrified wife; not William Dalrymple, one of Sarah's eccentric retinue of lovers and a dentist whose chair becomes a horrific centerpiece that will make most readers remember Marathon Man shudderingly.

Sarah's blithe, brittle independence is her hallmark: "She was perfectly comfortable living alone with her inexplicable devotions.... She seemed to have turned into a bit of a gypsy, encumbered with a small mortgage and very little else, her ambitions lessening with each succeeding year." But whereas Sara Paretsky's very insistence on V.I. Warshawski's wise-cracking solitude, for example, paradoxically signals that those still waters run as deep as Lake Michigan, Fyfield's determination to turn her heroine into a lone London gun merely renders Sarah as a two-dimensional woman with a commitment phobia.

The novel does, however, possess more than its fair share of vibrant, subtly sketched characters. Cannon Smith, trapped by memories of his own loyalty, must realize that even the most desperate efforts to achieve happiness may fall silently short: "There was not really anywhere to hide. From a ghost. A legend he no longer quite knew. From his own heart and the lure of destruction. From his own nature. From a world where he still did not understand the rules." And William Dalrymple, in his halting attempts to escape his personal and professional failings, and his terrified retreats into the comforting solitude of plaster molds and porcelain veneers, is a figure of ineffable pathos and shy courage. Fyfield's skill may even convince you that Willy Loman has thrown over sales in favor of dentistry, putting down his traveling case for good and picking up a drill and scalpel in its place. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The latest entry in Fyfield's Sarah Fortune series (Perfectly Pure and Good, etc.) sees the sexy, unconventional London solicitor taking on a risky case involving two dangerously close brothers. Misfit painter and ex-bomb-maker Cannon Smith is accused of manufacturing explosives and profiting from illegal business dealings, but his legal problems are nothing compared to the danger posed by his erstwhile partner in crime, his evil twin, Johnny. Now that Cannon has fallen in love and married the meek Julie, he is trying to steer clear of John. But Johnny fully intends to remain his brother's keeper, going so far as to have Julie assaulted and forcing Cannon underground. While Johnny needs Cannon's demolition expertise to maintain his extortionate real estate dealings, he also depends emotionally on his brother the way a sadist relies on a masochist. Fortune, taking the attorney-client relationship beyond normal bounds as usual, hides both Cannon and Julie, but there is a weak spot in their defenses: Fortune's dentist and hesitant lover, William. Fyfield has a knack for creating twisted characters, and Johnny makes an unnerving bogeyman--a pudgy psychopath with crooked, hideously stained teeth, a warped psyche and a deep fear of dentists. The Dickensian cast gratifies, and only a few improbabilities mar the otherwise suspenseful plot, which builds to a piercing climax. Fyfield's offbeat thriller hits a nerve, taking advantage of a universal fear of dental work and elaborating themes of dependency and revenge. Agent, Esther Newberg. (Jan.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Claude Rawlings on March 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Fyfield is an intelligent and talented writer indeed (though perhaps a bit too clever, since her plots tend to get bogged down in abstruse cleverness), but I would like to read one of her books in which a sympathetic female character is not tortured, beaten up, or mutilated in a particularly graphic way. This one is no exception, involving nasty, bloody, unanesthetized torture in a dentist's chair. What she puts her women through! And why, one wonders? Is this our punishment for just wanting a good read and taking her away from her law practice? Give us a break!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Chase on March 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Staring at the Light is brutal, surprising, deeply knowing, and wonderfully written. Why are women so poorly treated in Fyfield's books? In the mid-1960s, Jean-Luc Godard said that he would have something to say about the Vietnam War in every film he made until the United States military withdrew from Southeast Asia. I wonder if Fyfield's focus on violence toward women is not something along the same lines. P.D. James and Ruth Rendell have both had very good things to say about Ms. Fyfield but I do not think you can praise her writing sufficiently. She is a lawyer's writer, a mystery-lover's novelist, a Booker Prize-type author and I think her work is as good as it gets. And when someone gets thrown off a balcony in Staring at the Light, I was as shocked as if I had witnessed the event myself. Or it had been me. I hardly ever have exactly that kind of experience when reading. The unabridged audiotape of Staring at the Light is a special sort of experience as well. It has all the qualities of old-time radio drama. Once you pick up a Fyfield mystery, you are not likely to be doing much other than reading it until the pages stop.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There must be something in her past that leaves London solicitor Sarah Fortune with a motley crew of losers for clients. Perhaps it was the lover who brutally beat her. The only group worse than Sarah's customers is her lovers. Her current client is Belfast bomb-maker and artist Cannon Smith.

Cannon worries about the safety of his wife Julie from his worst enemy, his twin brother Johnny.

STARING AT THE LIGHT is a taut psychological thriller that keeps readers on the edge of their seat until the final climax. Cannon and Sarah are deep individuals with pasts that shape their present and future. However, the tale belongs to the sociopath Johnny who finds hurting people to attain his goals as more than an acceptable practice. He takes pleasure from inflicting pain. Frances Fyfield provides her audience with a tight psychological thriller that will gain the author new readers.

Harriet Klausner
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