And She Was
I love the Talking Heads song And She Was, though it’s a tad bit on the macabre side. But before seeing this novel in stores I had never realized just how perfect a title it would be for a thriller about missing people. The last two lines of the song are “Joining the world of missing persons and she was, Missing enough to feel all right and she was”. The song is talking about someone who goes missing by ascending into the universe. This novel talks about what happens when people go missing right here on our little planet. Clear off your desk and get ready to put your life on hold as you read. This novel sucks you in and doesn’t let you go till the very end.
Brenna Spector’s elder sister went missing over a decade ago. The trauma affected Brenna’s life in every way possible, not only changing the very trajectory of her childhood but reaching deep into her subconscious and changing the very framework of her brain. Because Brenna could not help the police by remembering crucial details of her sister’s disappearance, she developed hyperthymestic syndrome. This disorder means she will never forget anything again. Not ever. Every emotion, scent, sight, touch, sound, taste turns into a memory that is as real to her in the present as it was in the past when she lived it.
While there are many disadvantages to this, the disorder does come in useful during her job as a private investigator. Most of her work involves chasing down cheating spouses or spouses who abscond. The Carol Wentz case looks like the “skipped town” kind of marital discord, but several factors make it unique. Carol’s wallet has been found in the home of a six-year-old Isis Ness, a little girl who vanished eleven years ago. And in that wallet is information on how to contact Brenna. Brenna had worked Isis’ case back in the day, though she never found the girl. Now it seems as though she is being given a second chance. Brenna is both excited and scared because just like her sister, Isis was last seen getting into an old blue car.
Detective Nick Morasco is the furthest thing from what Brenna feels a cop should look like. He’s bookish, wears glasses and a tweed jacket, and carries a go-green style canvas bag rather than a briefcase, a look that certainly doesn’t inspires confidence in the law. But he is sharp and ruthless in using his casual look to inspire witnesses to talk. Slowly and cautiously he and Brenna begin a partnership that will lead them to answers and suspects they never saw coming.
This is an intense mystery that had me hooked from the first pages. When Brenna takes on Carol’s case she quickly realizes that everything about it ties back to the past. Although Carol had lived across the street from Isis and her mom, the relationship between the families was casual and the two cases are separated by eleven years. Nothing should bind them together. Yet each layer peeled from Carol’s case leads back to the missing six year old. More, the pieces of both cases don’t add up. It is clear that some big secret surrounds the Isis case. But what? Almost casually, the body count begins to pile up, while Brenna and Nick still can’t make sense of what they are seeing. With a growing sense of dread they realize that whoever is working against them may just win this game again, with the two of them being amongst the biggest losers.
What I loved about this book was the fast pacing, tightly plotted mystery, and unique characterizations. Neither Nick nor Brenna is a screamin’ type A personality. Nor are they overly nosy, chatting up everyone they come in contact with. They both take a lower key approach to crime solving, sort of methodical and meticulous. But their attention to detail pays off in providing the answers they need.
The glimpses provided of Brenna’s life both past and present are given in such a way that they don’t interfere with the main story, but do provide needed depth and warmth.I really liked how Brenna’s hyperthymestic syndrome was described in terms of both her life and her work. In one scene we see her talking to her assistant Trent on the phone while driving. Turns out long car trips are the perfect time to mentally reminisce, but for Brenna, whose memories literally pull her into the past, this is extremely dangerous. She could entirely miss what is going on around her while remembering the first time she got behind the wheel of a car. In terms of the work, her syndrome helps her but it doesn’t provide the solution. Having a perfect memory doesn’t mean having omniscient knowledge and that is shown here.
The secondary characters were also well done. Trent, Brenna’s assistant, reminded me vaguely of the Jersey Shore guys (only smart). I really liked him. He added comic relief to a pretty intense story. Maya, Brenna’s daughter, showcased just how hyperthymestic syndrome affects everyday life. There is a scene where the two are connecting and Brenna is suddenly yanked into the past. It is a poignant snapshot of their relationship. Jim, her ex-husband, is representative of the emotional problems that you experience when time can’t heal your wounds.
This isn’t a romance, so the relationship between Nick and Brenna is only brushed on. There is the possibility for more, and also the chance that things won’t pan out at all. I’m rooting for them to get together but liked the balance achieved here.
If you’ve been looking for a really good suspense novel, look no further. I am very happy to recommend this one to you.