“The door to hell stands under a fluorescent light in an alley in Queens. The devil himself showed me.”–Ricardo Henriquez, The Catcher’s Trap
There are few experiences more satisfying than sitting down with a book and finding yourself in its pages. The author gets you and you can feel it in your gut. The author proves to you that you that no matter how unique your own experiences may be, someone else understands them because their life path has been similar. That’s exactly how I felt the first time I read The Catcher’s Trap, the debut novel from Chilean born author Ricardo Henriquez.
Henriquez’s book centers around a young man named Andres. Andres is young, handsome and in any other story would be written as the great and confident hero who never backs down as he faces challenge after challenge. That’s not the story Henriquez is telling, however. Instead he offers us a hero who is eaten up inside by anxiety and depression, who second guesses his every move, and who fails in his quest at least often as he wins.
In short, the author decided to make Andres real.
It all begins in Queens. Andres has met three strangers in a bar and they’ve convinced him to tag along to a club he’s never heard of in a not so great part of the city. Andres has made a promise to himself to stop being such a coward, and though his inner dialogue tells a different story, outwardly he is determined to step way out of his comfort zone and embrace the unknown. Little does he know that by stepping into that club, he is setting himself up for capture by monsters, both beautiful and terrifying, straight out of his darkest nightmares.
This duality of beauty and terror plays out repeatedly in the novel, and the author uses that duality to perfectly symbolize the inner struggle that many of us know all too well. For those prone to depression and/or anxiety our own world can be a dark and uncertain place, and even the most beautiful sun bright field of flowers can open the door to hopelessness and fear.
Henriquez deftly created a world and people who embody these abstract traits in their many stages and brings them to horrific life. Whether it is the handsome catcher, Roman, who kidnaps humans and brings them to his world to serve his even more cruel masters, or the snake-like barbarian guards who watch over the humans and kill at will, these are monsters and their very purpose is to take your life. If it happens slowly or quickly, that’s up to you.
The Catcher’s Trap is a fine debut novel from Ricardo Henriquez, and it’s the first in a proposed trilogy of books that will continue Andres’ quest. Fans of Neil Gaiman would do well to get a copy. The book is available in both ebook and paperback formats from Inkshares.com.