WHAT YOU SEE IN THE DARK

Written by Manuel Muñoz

Review written by Sara Townsend

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group. http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/


WHAT YOU SEE IN THE DARK
Duckworth
RRP: £7.99
Released: 7th March 2013
Pbk

Bakersfield, California, 1959: An actress and a movie director arrive at a small town to scout locations for a new film. A local motel holds great interest for them. And so over the backdrop of the filming of ‘Psycho’, the citizens of Bakersfield go on with their lives.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get on with the book for several reasons:

For starters, it’s not really a crime novel. Yes, there is a murder but it’s clear from the outset who killed who. The murder happens ‘off camera’ and the killer skips town and is never caught, even though everyone in town knows who it was. So it’s not a ‘whodunnit’, or even a ‘howcatchem’, and a killer who goes free makes a most unsatisfactory ending.

Second, there are too many viewpoint characters. Most of the novel is told in third person. Some of the viewpoint characters include Mrs Arlene Watson, waitress and owner of the motel that is of such interest to the director, and Theresa, the young Mexican girl with aspirations to be a singer, who begins an ill-fated romance with Arlene’s son Dan. Other parts of the novel are told in second person, from the point of view of Theresa’s colleague in the shoe store, Candy. I am not a big fan of second-person point of view.

Third, there are several threads running through this novel and it’s hard to work out how – if at all – they are interconnected. There is the story of Theresa meeting Dan, but this story unfolds after it is revealed that he kills her. Arlene spends much of her part of the novel ruminating about how bad business is at the motel, and how it will get worse when the freeway that will completely bypass Bakersfield is finished, but there’s no real action in her story. Then there is the story of the Actress and Director making their movie. They are never named, only ever referred to by title, and neither is the film. But the filming of the shower scene is described in meticulous detail from the actress’s point of view, and although this makes it clear what film it is, I never understood how it connects to the rest of the book.

 This book is more like a film – the sort of film that takes several different characters in a town and shows brief interludes of their life, in shorts that aren’t really connected outside of the location. If one were to discuss this book at a book club meeting, there would no doubt be plenty to talk about. And that’s probably the best way to approach it. However, if you like crime thrillers with strong plots that can be read in half-hour bursts on the train as you commute to work, then this book isn’t really for you.

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