Talk Talk is fast-moving detective thriller

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By Pat Wellington

From the first hint of a developing identity-theft crisis to full-blooming chaos, T. C. Boyle’s novel Talk Talk will have you on the edge of your seat or biting your nails. It’s not quite a thriller but more of a fast-moving detective story within an emotional melodrama.

The story begins innocuously enough. An attractive young teacher of the deaf, Dr. Dana Halter, herself deaf, is running late for a dentist appointment. She’s made numerous circuits around her apartment searching for her car keys and sunglasses. When she finally finds them, she hurries off hoping to avoid being embarrassingly late. At a stop sign she sees that all is clear and crawls through it instead of coming to a full stop. Suddenly a patrol car looms in her rearview mirror. But this will be no ordinary ID and registration please. Instead, she is handcuffed and arrested.

Someone has taken over Dana’s life and piled up a rap sheet, including assault and other serious offenses in several states. Her incarceration is all the more painful and humiliating because of her inability to adequately communicate. Her boyfriend, Bridger Martin, a computer programmer, is thwarted in his attempts to help her by indifferent police and an impenetrable bureaucracy.

After several days in jail, she is finally rescued by an ASL interpreter. By then her rage is towering and her obsession to find her tormenter Ahab-like.

Bridger and Dana have come together from their separate but equally lonely worlds—hers a world of silence, his a world of the screen before him. At Digital dynasty “ the work was drudgery, piecework, paint and roto at twenty-five dollars and seventy-two cents an hour, before taxes, and while it has its moments of artistic satisfaction — like painting out the wires on the tiny flying bodies hurled into scabrous skies by one nasty extraterrestrial explosion or another — essentially a grind.”

After Dana loses her job because of her jailed absence, the two decide to pursue the thief, though Bridger is at first reluctant. Their quarry will turn out to be no garden variety low-life thief but a sophisticated former restaurateur with a taste for the finer things like fancy cars and gourmet food. A messy divorce and child custody suit turned him to crime. In jail on an assault charge, he is taught the art of identity theft by a pro named the Sandman. But Peck Wilson’s life is no picnic either. Life on the run means constantly looking over his shoulder and having to pull up stakes when he’s most content. Currently, he’s living an opulent lifestyle with a Russian beauty and her whiny young daughter and he’s furious that someone is on his trail. So Boyle cleverly makes his readers sympathetic toward both victim and victimizer.

Having put the two Danas on a collision course, there’s nothing left but the conclusion—which will please some and disappoint others. Boyle is a great story teller and writer. Highly recommended. CAVEAT: Check your own credit rating before reading this.

Pat Wellington is a retired English professor, freelance writer, and faculty member of On Top of the World’s Master the Possibilities who shares her passion for books with others.