So The Invisible Rider does have lively moments which do elevate the book. McDougall is occasionally sharp at vivid and clever turns of phrase and insights. I ruefully identified with the description of 3 am as being ‘the hour that presents the most trouble in the twenty-four hour cycle of the anxious.’ A quiet sense of emotional turmoil and anxiety does run through the veins of the body of the novel. But at the same time, this is often only on a very polite and superficial level: hardly adrenalin-pulsing stuff. It is safe for teens perhaps, but lacking in emotional grunt for adults. I wish McDougall had delved deeper. Philip is instead troubled by clammy but vague nightmares in which his young children are under threat of ‘some nameless danger’ and notices ‘a bone-deep ache that he considered might be the beginning of something bigger.’
KIRAN DASS is an Auckland-based writer and reviewer who has written about music, film and books for the NZ Listener, The Wire, Sunday Star-Times, Metro, Landfall, Real Groove, Rip it Up, NZ Musician, NZ Herald, Dominion Post, No, Pavement and Staple. Kiran reviews books on 95bFM’s Morning Glory show and sometimes blogs at Nick Bollinger is Away.