(Originally Published by Bantam Books December 1998)
The Caretaker is a wholly twisted and terrifying thriller. Nothing inside these pages is as it seems. Lies, manipulations, and seductions abound.
The Caretaker will keep you dangling until the last word. For just when you think you may hold the truth in your hands… think again, and watch it slip away.
The Caretaker—he seemed the perfect gentleman…
In life we must be careful what we wish for.
Samantha Henderson, faithful wife and devoted mother, is about to have her every wish granted, her every fantasy fulfilled. But in return, she and her family are going pay a price, a very steep price. Luxury does not come cheaply.
The trouble starts when Sam’s slick-talking husband, Gunn Henderson, the King of Sales, the Chairman of Charm, is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Proposal: Come aboard as National Sales Strategist for Creative Marketing Enterprises and reap the enormous benefits—$250,000 in base salary, lucrative bonus offers, country club memberships, private schools for the kiddies, a beachside estate on the eastern tip of Long Island complete with cook, chauffeur, and caretaker.
Sam can hardly believe the offer. It all sounds too good to be true.
Of course it is. It always is. There’s always a catch.
Sam and her family are about to meet Brady. The caretaker of that beachside estate.
Brady is indeed the perfect gentleman—thoughtful, honest, hardworking, willing to fulfill the Hendersons’ every need, especially Sam’s.
But the caretaker is also a man of certain… eccentricities.
The Hendersons will soon discover there is more to Brady than meets the eye.
The Hendersons, make no mistake, are in way over their heads. They are in big trouble. Their lives are about to be sliced open and placed under a microscope.
But why? And who is going to such extremes to terrorize them?
The answers lie within these pages.
But know this: someone will have to pay… for wrongs committed long ago. Revenge is in the air. And there will be no peace until justice is served.
The Caretaker is a sick little yarn. Definitely my most calculated novel. Unlike most of my work, born out of inspiration and inevitability, The Caretaker arose from a desire to write a first class psychological thriller.
Prompted by my ambitious and eccentric editor at Bantam, Ms. Kate Miciak, I set aside spontaneity in favor of premeditation. It is the only novel I’ve written from an outline and the only plot I’ve ever created where I actually worked out the end before I wrote the first sentence.
The Caretaker, I might add, is also my bestselling work. It kept me out of the poor house for quite some time. So maybe there’s a kernel of truth to the old adage that it’s good to know where you’re going before you set off on your journey.
Unfortunately, this whole deliberative act of premeditation was not why I got into the insane business of novel writing. I write novels for the same reason I read them. Which is really the same reason I watch movies. And listen to music. And go to museums. And take walks in the woods. And travel to distant ports. And seek out interesting people for lengthy chats on a wide variety of topics. Because life is a journey of self discovery. If I wanted to know the end before I set off I’d just sit in front of the TV and watch reruns.
That said, The Caretaker really is a great revenge story. It’s a classic setup. A guy (and in this case his father) were done wrong decades earlier. Wrong enough that this guy has spent a significant portion of his adult life preparing for retribution. As you’ll see, it’s quite sick how far this guy has gone to mete out his vengeance.
The Caretaker, like most of my stuff, is extremely visual. They’re just words on a page but I like to think those words pretty quickly and pretty vividly draw images in your head. For years a variety of Hollywood producers, including a couple fat cats, held options on The Caretaker. Scripts were written, directors hired, actors considered. I’d been through this movie madness before with This Way Madness Lies and The Gypsy Storyteller, but The Caretaker came very close to actually getting produced. Maybe it still will; it’s a natural for visual storytelling.
Anyway, back in its hardcover and softcover heyday there were a hell of a lot of copies of The Caretaker around. It got good reviews and a lot of buzz. Had I written a few more Caretaker type stories I’d be retired now on Bimini bone fishing by day and ruining my liver by night.
Ah, to dream…
This tale of long-brewing revenge is rife with characters who aren't who they seem, and takes place on the grounds of an old mansion containing secret passages, peepholes and hidden TV cameras. The trouble is that the revenge motive is revealed in the first paragraph, almost all the characters' true identities are exposed early on and the put-upon family is nothing short of obnoxious. Gunn Henderson Jr., a type-A "control freak and a nut case," is an ace salesman recruited to run the sales campaign for a toy he's convinced will be "the next craze." While his wife, Samantha, prides herself on being a good mother, she can't keep her son from beating up on his younger sister. During the course of the novel, Sam goes from obtuse wimp to battered spouse to sex toy of Brady, the secretive and hunky caretaker of the Long Island mansion that's just one of the many perks provided by Gunn's new job. Brady begins his seduction of Sam during Gunn's frequent business trips. It's easy work, since he spouts charming Zen truisms and has a body like Adonis, which he flaunts every morning while swimming nude in the pool outside Sam's bedroom. Simpson's language is fast but utterly colorless, and he spends more energy in describing the psychopathic computer games Brady writes than on establishing anything like human character. A final twist threatens readers with the grim prospect of a sequel to this suspenseless would-be thriller.