this is exactly my kind of escapist book.
i’m not someone known for having highbrow tastes or anything; i’ve nothing to escape from in the way of intellectual pursuits, but sometimes you just want a book that’s all about the pleasure of reading it—something to shut out the demands of the day with a few hours of page-turning, snack-scarfing ease. for some readers in these situations, the more mindless the book, the better, but i lose patience with lazy writing, wild implausibilities, inconsistent characters—all of those things stick in my readercraw and pull me out of the reading experience to grumble, causing more stress than whatever was making me seek out an escape hatch in the first place.
for me, i want gulpy but not insipid; something that will keep my brain engaged without overburdening it, and this checked all my escapelit boxes. i’m not gonna lie, i figured out the whodunnit part pretty early on (and: dear book, if you value secrecy, maybe be more careful about the comparisons you make), but it is well-seeded with red herrings and complications; throwing so many “but WAIT!’s” and “but WHY?’s” out there, there’s plenty left to discover and plenty of opportunities to doubt your own suspicions.
it’s a murder mystery with a voyeuristic twist: a woman staying at an off-season irish holiday cottage is murdered in her bed, and the whole splattery thing is caught on the hidden camera in her room; a murder witnessed after the fact by creepy manager andrew, placer of hidden cameras, who is not only shocked to see his guest attacked, but also shocked that the killer is absolutely aware of the hidden camera.
what will happen now?
well, now you have to wait—the novelty of this book is in its structure, and after the opening-scene bloodbath, we are zipped away to the before:
and throughout the book, the linear action will be interrupted by similar temporal-yankings, transporting the reader to different times and different POVS following such commands as play, rewind, fast forward, pause, etc.
i’ve read a few other surveillance-based mystery/horror novels recently that are centered around smart homes, AIs, and security cameras (Security, The Turn of the Key, The Mansion); capitalizing on the discomfort about our heavily-monitored, privacy-lost modern condition to stage even scarier situations. this is the first book i’ve read that also loops in the ways in which we compromise our own safety and contribute to our own loss of privacy. the murder victim is an instagram star, inviting strangers to envy her life, although it’s a carefully curated and filtered version—look at me look at me but only look at what i want to show you—which voluntarily adds an extra layer of scrutiny to her in a world where everything is already cameras. it’s a world where everything is cameras, and yet we are still so complacent about letting strangers into our physical spaces—we used to warn children not to get into cars with strangers, now we pay strangers to drive us around, we let them live in our homes when we are not there, or we live in their homes, or we go stay in isolated irish seaside cottages—long story short: everyone’s butt has been filmed and assessed without their knowledge. everything is cameras. try not to get murdered.
i do not know what it was she hoped i would do, but i’m willing to try.