If Lisa Moore’s latest novel Caught was a film it would be described as a “road movie”.
Indeed, as I read it I couldn’t help thinking that it had all the right ingredients for a Hollywood blockbuster — a young prisoner on the run, a down-at-heel cop on his tail, a pretty girl (or two or three) and an ambitious pot-smuggling plan involving sail boats, hurricanes and all manner of dodgy drug runners — but as a novel I struggled to properly engage with it. Throughout its entire 326 pages, I felt as if I was an observer and not a participant.
The book has a dramatic opening. It is June 14, 1975 — the eve of David Slaney’s 25th birthday.
He has just escaped prison and is heading to Guysborough, Nova Scotia, where a fellow prisoner has arranged a room for him. He hitches a ride with a trucker bringing a shipment of Lay’s potato chips to Newfoundland, and, keeping his head down, he slowly makes his way to Montreal and then Vancouver.
But his ultimate plan is to head to Colombia to finish the task that landed him in prison in the first place — smuggling two tons of marijuana into Canada.
His success is wholly reliant on meeting up with Brian Hearn, his childhood friend and partner-in-crime, who jumped bail last time round and has reinvented himself as a PhD student.
And it will also depend on evading capture, which is where a third character, Patterson, comes into the story. A jaded staff sergeant in the Toronto Drug Section, he has been passed over for promotion too many times but has been promised an advancement if he can nab Slaney.