Review of The Shut Eye
Blurb: Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.
Yesterday they were a family just like any other: Anna and James, and their little boy, Daniel.
But in one careless moment everything changed.
A front door accidentally left ajar . . . and Daniel was gone.
Now they are a pair of strangers who can't even look each other in the eye.
Distrust and unspoken words fill the void where their son used to be.
Anna will go to any lengths to find Daniel - a four-year-old doesn't just vanish into thin air. But how far will this desperate search push her?
Right to the brink.
Review: Anna Buck is distraught over her missing son Daniel and ritually cleans his footprints in the cement in front of their flat every day. It was one careless moment, but Anna still holds on to hope while her husband James wants to put it all behind them. When Anna seeks out the help of a medium, she starts having visions herself of another missing child. But will anyone listen to the crazy woman who lost her son?
I have been reading a lot of mystery novels lately. Usually I'm very good at figuring things out, but I dove into some books that have tricked me. I hope to learn from these authors how to create a compelling and twisty mystery.
Belinda Bauer is an award-winning author of eight novels. She won the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Crime Novel of the Year for Blacklands, the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award for Rubbernecker, and the CWA Dagger in the Library Award for outstanding body of work. She knows what she's doing. She writes from multiple points of view, going back and forth from the past to the present. I prefer to write in first-person with a single narrator in a linear plot, but it seems in big mystery books, the trick is to get multiple points of view. So one view point may be skewed or several. I'd like to write a mystery one day when the right story idea comes to me, but all my books have a mystery element to them.
This is the first book from Bauer I've read, and it is fantastic. It's a crime mystery with a supernatural edge. The story could have stood on its own without the bit of paranormal, but even what's called that is questioned. Anna's grief and desperation over losing her son is incredibly real and well done. Her marriage is on the rocks and James drinks his misery away. He had left the door open, and that's when their son walked out to disappear. I was most pulled in by Anna and James. My heart went out to them. Detective Marvel is not a likable character. In fact, I really disliked him at moments, but he's extremely dedicated to his job and closing cases. (I do wonder if Marvel is a regular in all of Bauer's books, because his story felt like it had already began and there was still more to come.) A strange connection brings him and Anna together, and maybe, he hopes, she can help him find the missing 12-year-old girl. There are lots of twists as everything is slowly revealed and tons of red herrings. I was even thinking that it could be Anna at one point, but the book got me, and it turned out to be someone I didn't suspect.
**Don't read this paragraph if you don't want spoilers!** I truly didn't suspect the murderer, but when I glanced back over the story, I saw the few hints which pointed to it. Yet it left me with a bad taste that felt racist. There are characters in the story who are racist, and there are a few other characters who are POC who were impressive (like the desk clerk at the police station). So I sincerely hope that Bauer didn't mean for the plot to feel that way. It was the character's culture which led to the girl's murder and the disappearance of the Bucks' boy. A culture none of the other characters or this reader had any idea about. It came out of nowhere. Surely the young murderer, having been alone in the UK for at least a few years, knew that things were not done there as they were in traditional clans back in his homeland. He did still have trouble understanding the language, but immersed in the British culture for a couple of years would have taught him a lot about it, and more English too. He's young and adaptable, learning on the job. I couldn't reasonably believe he wouldn't know what he was doing was wrong. It could be he had mental issues (which he likely did, even though none of that was brought up or touched on), but nothing gave any indication that he was insane, only missing his family. I felt sorry for this character until I learned he was the murderer. He didn't intend to murder the girl, but when she and everyone else didn't understand his culture's tradition of kidnapping brides, his shame left him to abandon her in her cell. Shame had him keep the kidnapped boy so long too. Shame can be powerful, for sure, but I don't like the reasons for crimes to come out of nowhere as I felt the traditions of his culture did.