AN ACCIDENTAL LIGHT by Elizabeth Diamond


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Tracing the aftermath of a child’s accidental death, first-time British novelist Diamond combines elements of a ghost story with those of a psychological thriller.

Policeman Jack Philips fatally strikes Laura Jenkins with his car when the child runs into the street from behind a bus. Married with two young daughters, Jack feels overwhelming guilt although he is fully exonerated at the inquest. He begins to see Laura’s ghost occasionally. On medical leave, he explores with a sympathetic counselor how his guilt over Laura relates to emotional pain he’s tamped down for years concerning his mother’s suicide when he was a young child. But he cannot share his feelings with his wife Sam, and their marriage collapses around the time he decides to leave the police department. Meanwhile, Laura’s distraught mother Lisa also sees Laura’s ghost. She and Laura’s father Derek have already drifted apart in their marriage, sleeping in separate bedrooms for years. Now Laura’s death sends them down very different paths. Derek becomes obsessed with news reports of children killed in driving accidents and secretly stalks Jack. Lisa is drawn to spiritual remedies. She goes to a tarot reader and to a medium, who not only sees Laura but Lisa’s father, who died of a heart attack when Lisa was 14. Like Jack, Lisa finds herself dealing with both her present and past sense of loss. Also like Jack, she reconnects with her surviving parent. Attending a spiritualist church, Lisa is told that Laura is worried about Jack. After she invites Derek (whose inner life, like Sam’s, remains mostly unexplored) to a sad, touchingly rendered dinner, Lisa seeks out Jack, now living alone, though still a devoted dad. When Derek attempts a desperate act of revenge, it is thwarted by Laura’s ghost.

With matter-of-fact, precise prose and edgy characterizations, Diamond shows strong potential despite the spiritual gobbledygook that casts a phony redemptive shadow.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59051-301-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Other Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2008