a novel by Lindsay Boyd
published June 23rd by Black Rose Writing
Most of the novel takes place on the fictional Caribbean island of New Mendoza. There are two parallel stories: in the first one a local man is looking back on his unhappy childhood at the mercy of his mother’s bullying second husband, and at the same time wondering about the reality behind the pure and saintly portrait of a missing girl that is being painted by the local media.
In the second thread, written in ‘omniscient author’ mode, we are shown how the two teachers sharing the responsibility for supervising a hedonistic High School group from Mississippi pay more attention to each other than to their charges, and when one girl fails to show up for the flight home are shocked to be told that she was last seen getting into a car with three local boys in the small hours and disappearing into the night. The stage is set for likely tragedy.
As the two simultaneous stories continue we think we see what the link between them is likely to be. The first narrator recounts how as a teenager he developed an unhealthy addiction to violent Internet pornography that led to a powerful desire to act out in his own life some of the scenes he had dredged up from the deepest sewers of the digital world. “My outlook on women and girls changed. I lacked the maturity to be able to classify what I watched on the assortment of sites as nothing but the most obscene and degrading rendering of male hatred and fantasy. Seen in that light, every woman was a grungy harlot…”
True to this build-up and to the novel’s title, there follows a stomach-churning description of the murder by the narrator of an eight-year-old girl when he was himself fourteen, although it occurred to me that there wasn’t very much obvious connection between this crime and his addiction to pornography, the act seems to be motivated more by blind panic and fear of retribution for having disobeyed his bullying stepfather.
The account is very detailed, so that we are propelled into a role similar to that of the voyeur drivers who slow to a crawl as they pass the mangled wreckage and splashes of human blood on the other side of the highway.
Now we begin to follow in one thread the prison career of the young offender, and in the other the police investigations regarding the more recent case of the missing girl, the responses of her family and the massive media coverage her disappearance and presumed murder receives.
The narration in both parallel stories is fairly detailed and the pace leisurely at times, but Boyd is a skilled teller of tales and knows how to hold his audience. His characters are well rounded and totally believable, and all the settings are vividly described, and, we feel rooted in the author’s personal experience.
There is of course a point at which the two stories come together, but the connections between them I will not give away here. Suffice it to say that Boyd gently nudges his story forward to a satisfying conclusion that avoids the obvious. An entertaining and thoughtful mystery story.