I saw in several places that Caught was being marketed as a crime thriller, which rubbed me the wrong way. Moore’s previous work has been literary, and her writing voice is incredibly strong. I wondered what a departure from literary fiction would mean for her work and its reception. Fortunately, Caught seems to pull in aspects of genre fiction while still maintaining a distinct literary style.
Lisa Moore offers us a remarkable new novel about a man who escapes from prison to embark upon one of the most ambitious pot-smuggling adventures ever attempted.
Here are bravado and betrayal, bad weather and seas, love, undercover agents, the collusion of governments, unbridled ambition, innocence and the loss thereof, and many, many bales of marijuana. Here, too, is the seeming invincibility of youth and all the folly that it allows.
Caught is an exuberant, relentlessly suspenseful, and utterly unique novel, and promises to be the astonishing Lisa Moore’s most accomplished work to date.
From the publisher, House of Anansi Press
Caught is the story of David Slaney, in prison for marijuana trafficking charges, while his best friend and business partner got off scott-free. Slaney manages to escape prison the day before his 25th birthday in 1978 and is travelling from Nova Scotia to Vancouver to hook up with his old pal Brian Hearn. For the past four years while Slaney has been in prison, Hearn has been planning another go at importing two tonnes of Colombian weed. What Hearn and Slaney don’t realize is that they haven’t been caught yet for a reason—enter undercover detective Patterson.
While the pacing and plot of the novel sound like genre fiction fodder, the writing is poetic and reflective. Within a linear narrative, Moore still manages to explore the characters’ history, hopes and dreams. The two main narrators are Slaney and Patterson, and Moore humanizes both very well. You don’t want Slaney to go back to prison, but Patterson’s promotion is dependent on nailing both Hearn and Slaney. The literary side of the coin begs questions of morality, life purposes, and trust.
Once I understood the direction of the story and the connection between the character, the question of how it would play out was very suspenseful. Moore artfully manages the balance between plot and character, thriller and literary, suspense and reflection— which is probably what landed her on the 2013 longlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. However, if I wasn’t expecting a more literary angle, I would have been highly frustrated by the constant breaks from the thriller formula.