Joshua Gilder

"Ghost Image"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer FEB 10, 2003)

"A scar is permanent. That is why a skilled plastic surgeon will try to hide it -- in the crease of an eyelid, in the fold beneath the breast, along the hairline or behind the ear. If you're lucky and have the right genetic makeup, the scar may be almost indiscernible to the naked eye. But it is always there. It never goes away."

Ghost Image by Joshua Gilder

Jackson Maebry is in a hurry...he's due to meet his girlfriend Allie at his apartment and doesn't want to be late. The last thing he wants to do is head down to the ER, but when he gets the call, he does. The woman there is burned and severely beaten, and with a sinking stomach he recognizes her as the woman he loves. He doesn't tell anyone, because he'd be taken off the case. As a fairly talented plastic surgeon with a strong ER background, it seems only natural that he would want to put his talents to use to help someone he cares for. Unfortunately, when she wakes up she doesn't know who attacked her, and when the police realize the connection between doctor and patient, Jackson becomes a suspect.

Read excerptOf course, our main character can't be the attacker...or can he? His actions are often erratic, and there are some subtle clues that make you wonder, such as an e-mail that he never sent to Allie, but could be construed as threatening. He has motive, and basis, as Allie keeps their affair in the dark, and she has refused to marry him...his mother is schizophrenic, and he, himself, is seeing a psychiatrist, hoping to resolve some nasty issues surrounding his childhood and father. All through the book, just as you think, nope, Jackson would never hurt Allie, something happens to make you doubt him. You find yourself reading all the more carefully, especially during the scenes with the psychiatrist, wondering if he's subtly confessing to larger sins. This uncertainly is what really draws you through the book, because there is never a time when you're allowed to be comfortable with Jackson, you're always wondering.

I had never planned to go and get plastic surgery...I'm much more of a wash and wear kind of girl...and this novel has pretty much put me off of the concept forever. Detailed descriptions of procedures made me squirm as the connective tissues under my own flesh itched in sympathy. True, the idea of someone peeling a face off as easily as you or I would peel back the tin on a sardine can is enough to give anyone the creeps, but the idea of "Like all first-year residents, he'd developed the ability to catch up on sleep standing over the operating table" is somehow more terrifying. The surgical procedures do lend a certain ambiance to the story, lending the other events in the book their aura.

Mysteries often are written to keep you guessing about which character committed the crime...but few successfully keep the reader on edge, unable to decide if the main character was the murderer or if it it was caused by someone else. It is not something easily carried out, and I am impressed by the way Gilder handled it. It became the motivating force behind reading it, but the other aspects, the clues, a couple of murders that make things look even more suspicious for Jackson, and the way the events are played out are done in such a way that you're always looking for more. A solid debut.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 26 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Ghost Image at

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About the Author:

Joshua Gilder (photo by Carl Caruso)Joshua Gilder is a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan (penning, among others, his famous "Go Ahead, Make My Day" speech) and served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights under President George H. W. Bush. Cofounder of a successful Washington, D.C., consulting firm, he has also published articles in The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, The New Criterion, The American Spectator, and Saturday Review. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife, Anne-Lee, and young son, Max. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014