The Caretaker by Gabriel Bergmoser

Reviewed by Rod McLary

The beginning of this new novel by Gabriel Bergmoser is deceptively simple and straightforward.  Charlotte Laurent aspires to be a writer and is currently enrolled in a Creative Writing course at a university in Melbourne – but she is not convinced of her ability to write anything until she meets Leo Grey.  Leo Grey is a young critically-acclaimed author and in a conversation over a coffee he encourages Charlotte to pursue her dreams.  All is good to this point.

But then she meets Dominic – a thirty-year-old, sophisticated, rich, handsome, intelligent nightclub owner – seemingly very interested in pursuing a relationship with Charlotte.  Against the advice of her father and her best friend, she immerses herself in this new relationship and moves in with Dominic; and later she marries him.  Dinners with the best wines in the best restaurants with Dominic – what more could anyone ask for?  Charlotte is given responsibility for the management of, first, one of his nightclubs and later a second.  But then reality starts creeping in.  First, Vince Caine appears – with ‘brutish features, hairy knuckles and close-cropped hair’ [129] – and watches her with a slight smirk on his face.  Next, there are the whispers –becoming increasingly louder – that Dominic is not all he seems to be.  Then – and by now, the tension is building – Charlotte is persuaded by Dominic to commit an almost unthinkable act to save him from his enemies and their relationship from disintegration.  It is not until towards the end of the novel that the reader discovers what this act was and why it was necessary.

With her life now under threat, Charlotte ‘disappears’ from Melbourne.  Later, she emerges with a new identity and appearance and – now known as Katie – takes on the role of caretaker of a small run-down ski resort during the off season.  Constantly on guard, she trusts no one and nothing.  Skilfully and subtly, the author increases the psychological tension until the reader – much as Katie does – jumps at every creak of the floorboards and every rustle in the bushes.

What unfolds from this point on is a tale of almost unbearable tension – with just a touch of horror thrown in – as the fast-paced narrative moves to its dénouement.

As he has achieved in his earlier books, the author has created a world in which nothing is as it appears and nothing and no one can be trusted.  Charlotte – much like Maggie in the author’s earlier books The Hunted and The Inheritance – must rely on her cunning and her skill in anticipating the source of any threat.  But nothing is perfect and the tension increases from her capacity to respond to the threats when they come – and come they do.  There is a resourcefulness and strength in Charlotte which she taps into when all appears lost.

And, as in all the best psychological thrillers, the novel’s conclusion is ambiguous.  The Caretaker is a thriller with an intricate, well-planned plot, believable characters, and with Charlotte, a protagonist with whom the reader will want to share every step of her journey to freedom.

It is a book to be savoured and read in one sitting.

Gabriel Bergmoser is an award-winning Melbourne-based author and playwright.  He has won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award [2015] and in 2017 was nominated for the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing.  His previous books – The Hunted, The Inheritance and his Young Adult novel True Colour of a Little White Lie have been reviewed by QRC.

The Caretaker


by Gabriel Bergmoser


ISBN 978 146076 313 1

$32.99; 330pp


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