Past Obsession: A Time Travel Thriller
by Richard Keith Taylor
Ransom Greene Press

"She wore a light summer dress, timeless but also very 1940s, wind-whipped at her knees, sea breeze billowing the fabric. There was something sad about the woman, sad and mysterious."

At first, Emily Torrance is simply a means to a paycheck for Jim Mercer. As a freelance writer who often supplements his income as an author of true crime books with feature stories for The Los Angeles Times, the life of the artist who was raped and murdered in the 1940s starts as just another assignment that happens to mesh with his expertise. But Emily soon becomes much more than a subject to him. Her face haunts him by day and then enters his dreams by night. He finds himself playing old footage of her compiled on a promotional DVD over and over again and eventually alternating it with extra footage that the Santa Monica Police Department had kept. Then at one point in his obsessive viewing, he sees it: a brief reflected image of the man filming her. Impossibly, the face he sees is his own.

Convinced he will soon travel back in time to meet Emily and film her, Mercer begins to try and uncover the contemporary project that must exist that will eventually transport him to the 1940s. Not too long after this, the secretive, government-backed group who have come up with this technology finds him. They agree to send him back as their first human test subject and also give him their blessing to rescue Emily as long as they can set the parameters whereby he will not alter history significantly. Mercer is more than happy to accede to their wishes and go through their training if it will help him save the woman he has never met but somehow has still fallen in love with. The group works hard to plan for every contingency, but as all involved will soon discover, not everything can be predicted even in the past; sometimes the best-laid plans change.

One thing that is obvious from the very beginning is that Taylor is an excellent writer, proving his expertise as a wordsmith every step of the way. He starts with a well-used but still effective technique of including a passage from another work—in this case, Edgar Allen Poe's classic poem, "A Dream Within a Dream"—to set the mood. He quickly pairs this wiith his first scene, a nightmare Mercer has about him and Emily trying desperately to swim to each other in an angry ocean. From this rather ominous beginning, Taylor then plays with time and subtly hints at the forthcoming problems of connecting with Emily by having Mercer, his narrator, talk about how he first saw the face of his "dreamgirl" in real life rippling in and out of focus on a wind-whipped banner. The author then settles into a typically sequential storyline but one that builds with all of the suspense associated with the better mystery writers. Another skill Taylor shares with writers in this genre is his ability to seed his character pool with likely suspects. While some readers may pick up early on as to who the ultimate antagonist will turn out to be, the author has enough red herrings in play to keep many guessing until the end.

While Taylor does use time travel as a significant element in his plot, his book is not primarily a science fiction novel. Instead, it is both a thriller and a love story, an engaging and well-written work that is not only entertaining but also rich in well-developed characters. It is the kind of book that makes one look at the author's bio on the back to see what else he has written.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home