The Quiet People, Paul Cleave
Back when I first discovered Paul Cleave's books and the Theodore Tate series in particular, I did wonder if he really liked frightening the living daylights out of his readers. I'm not talking horror or anything here, but the creepy, persistent sense of terror that invades those books has been responsible for some lost sleep hours and locked doors in these parts. Lately though I'm starting to realise it's his characters he's trying to exact some sort of revenge on. In the beginning of THE QUIET PEOPLE you could be forgiven for wondering what Cameron and Lisa Murdoch did to deserve the intensity of the wringer through which they are being slowly, excruciatingly drawn.
Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are a husband and wife writing duo, specialising in thrilling crime fiction. They are renowned for their festival appearances, their books are loved the world over, and they appear the closest and most loving of couples. At home things are a bit more tense as their son Zach is a handful.
It's not just that Zach went missing at a fun-fair one day, Cameron leaving chaos in his wake in his frantic search for him. It's that when he vanishes in the night after that, everyone is left wondering if Cameron and Lisa are the victims of a cruel and dreadful kidnapping, or the perpetrators of something much more sinister.
Told mostly from the viewpoint of a gradually cracking up Cameron, he's left scrambling for answers as his life spirals. Is he going to lose more than just his son, or is he playing one enormous last role of the dice to try to get away with the unthinkable? As is always the case with a Paul Cleave novel you're going to be guessing right up until the last page. You're also going to be feeling slightly guilty about the sly, dark humour that populates this tale of unimaginable loss and grief. You're also probably going to find yourself wondering just how you'd react to a child like Zach, which is guaranteed to make a lot of readers even more uncomfortable.
Which is exactly what this author specialises in. He takes a bad scenario and he twists it, and makes it worse, better, harder, more complicated, discomforting and wrong-footing readers with aplomb. I never seem to know what what's happening or where things are going to end up with any of this author's novels, and I've never once been disappointed to get there.
Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful crime writers. They have been on the promotional circuit, joking that no one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.
So when their seven-year-old son Zach goes missing, the police and the public naturally wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time...
Are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime?