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Double Vision

In Double Vision, Barker says she is "questioning the nature of my imagination - not a comfortable one". She examines her own fascination with violence and atrocity, and her own attraction to the serial killer, the psychopath, and the stalker.

The plot concerns Stephen Sharkey, a foreign correspondent, who comes to a village near Newcastle to recover from his nightmares of Rwandan massacres, Bosnian rapes, and ambushes in Afghanistan, where his best friend, the war photographer Ben Frobisher, was killed. His marriage has ended, perhaps because of his career, and he has hung up his flak jacket and taken three months out to write a book about representations of war, based on Ben's pictures.

Stephen's neighbours in the village include his brother, a doctor and father of a child with Asperger's syndrome and Ben's widow, Kate, a sculptor recovering from a car accident, who has hired a man to help her with her work. She has been commissioned to sculpt a colossal Christ figure for the local cathedral. Alongside her commission, she is working on a group of seven plaster figures influenced by the terrorists of September 11, these men "lean, predatory, equally ready to kill or die". Kate's attraction to these frightening male figures, and to their psychology, parallels Barker's fascination with lurid male fantasies of stalking, rape, torture and murder, all represented in this novel. Moreover, Kate Frobisher needs the armature of her statue of Christ - "It mustn't fall over" - to support her vision. Through her characters, Barker investigates the paradox of the female imagination behind these horrific male images. 

The helper Kate hires is a handsome young odd-job man and gardener named Peter Wingrave. He has been taken in and helped in a Fresh Start initiative for ex-convicts by the local minister, a man in liberal denial about his own violent impulses. Peter is a sinister, voyeuristic presence in the community, but he also wants to be a writer or a therapist. 

The plot is concerned with the morality of writing about and representing atrocity and war. Is watching TV news voyeurism? Is reporting and photographing complicit and addictive? When does "witnessing" become "disseminating"? Were the attacks of September 11 "designed to be a photo-opportunity ... the appetite for spectacle used against the west"?