SOMETHING MISSING - Matthew Dicks
SOMETHING MISSING is an entertaining romp through the life of a very unique burglar. The sort of burglar (if you must be burgled), that you would hope was rifling through your personals.
Martin Railsback is really, seriously, just about the perfect burglar. His OCD tendencies mean that he's absolutely obsessed with his methodology. In fact, Martin approaches his burglary with a seriousness that's strangely endearing. He has a very limited group of houses that he steals from - a client base, as he refers to them - that have a particular household profile. Once in their homes, he takes small items that are unlikely to be noticed, toilet rolls, half empty bottles of detergent, rarely used pieces tucked away at the back of display cabinets. Mostly though it's general day to day living items, his version of grocery shopping if you like. He works the houses of his clients carefully, setting up the stealing of some items over long periods of time, carefully ensuring that most of the items he takes will go unnoticed by his clients. He limits the "big ticket items" to those that he can carefully scope out, taking months and months to steal first one, then the second in, for example, a rarely worn pair of diamond earrings.
Everything this man does is so carefully controlled, considered, cautious and ... well ... tidy, that you really can't help wondering where the author is going with all of this, but there is a very slow build up as Martin carefully takes the reader through his methodology, his life. It's all a bit car-crash fascinating, and made me profoundly pleased that we wouldn't have fit Martin's careful client profiling, as to be honest, the sorts of things he was regularly stealing from his clients, are exactly the sorts of things that could go missing around here with neither of us likely to notice!
But something does eventually go wrong for Martin, and his carefully contained, controlled life does hit a very big snag. What is even better is that the snag is self-imposed, something he could have walked away from, leaving nobody any the wiser about his daily activities. Something that is happening in a client's life offends Martin's sense of right and he has to get involved.
SOMETHING MISSING was a thoroughly enjoyable book, it's the sort of book that slowly builds, that weaves a story around the reader, that's sometimes laugh out loud funny. But for somebody as controlled, considered and self-involved as Martin, somehow he works as a first person voice for the book. Somehow the OCD that affects his every waking hour, also affects his own voice. It's contained, it's explanatory, rather than self-congratulatory, it's quiet, measured and just a little bit sad to be honest. It's an unexpected viewpoint, and goes towards what was really an interesting, unusual and rather entertaining book. Especially if you'd like a crime fiction outing that's not about death and mayhem and murder.
A career criminal with OCD tendencies and a savant-like genius for bringing order to his crime scenes, Martin considers himself one of the best in the biz. After all, he’s been able to steal from the same people for years on end—virtually undetected. Of course, this could also be attributed to his unique business model—he takes only items that will go unnoticed by the homeowner. After all, who in their right mind would miss a roll of toilet paper here, a half-used bottle of maple syrup there, or even a rarely used piece of china buried deep within a dusty cabinet?
Even though he's never met these homeowners, he's spent hours in their houses, looking through their photo albums and reading their journals. In essence, Martin has developed a friendship of sorts with them and as such, he decides to interfere more in their lives—playing the part of a rather odd guardian angel—even though it means breaking many of his twitchy neurotic rules.