Please See Us
Simon and Schuster Australia
In this sophisticated, suspenseful debut reminiscent of Laura Lippman and Chloe Benjamin, two young women become unlikely friends during one fateful summer in Atlantic City as mysterious disappearances hit dangerously close to home.
Summer has come to Atlantic City but the boardwalk is empty of tourists, the casino lights have dimmed, and two Jane Does are laid out in the marshland behind the Sunset Motel, just west of town. Only one person even knows they’re there.
Meanwhile, Clara, a young boardwalk psychic, struggles to attract clients for the tarot readings that pay her rent. When she begins to experience very real and disturbing visions, she suspects they could be related to the recent cases of women gone missing in town. When Clara meets Lily, an ex-Soho art gallery girl who is working at a desolate casino spa and reeling from a personal tragedy, she thinks Lily may be able to help her. But Lily has her own demons to face. If they can put the pieces together in time, they may save another lost girl—so long as their efforts don’t attract perilous attention first. Can they break the ill-fated cycle, or will they join the other victims?
Evocative, eerie, and compelling, Please See Us is a fast-paced psychological thriller that explores the intersection of womanhood, power, and violence.
“I shuffled the deck and the cards stuck together in the humidity…
The card I drew was the Moon. The card for women. The card meant mystery, confusion, even insanity. But it could also mean knowing, intuition, or a sign that you needed to face what scared you the most…I also needed to believe that magic and meaning sometimes reached into our world. Or else there was just my life – the high school diploma I would never get, the shop, the mangy feral cats, the mother who never wrote anymore, Des coming home from a shift at the club with her pupils huge and glassy, rubbing at her nose.” (p35)
This is such a powerful bittersweet read that in its guise of a powerful, suspenseful, murder mystery sheds light on the insidious power of addiction, of the role of women in society – the judgement and expectations of “good” women and the “the other kind”, the business of selling women’s’ bodies…using women bodies for self-gratification, a throw away commodity;
“There’s this flier someone was passing around at the club. One of the other girls gave it to me. A business opportunity.”
“Well, it’s this service, right? Where rich men are looking for to…take care of young, attractive women.”
“What do you mean, take care of?”
“Pay you to let them take them out on dates. Buy you nice things, take you out to good dinners”.
“They pay you to let them buy you stuff? Come on Des, that’s not all they’re paying for.” I had lived here my whole life; I’d seen how this kind of thing worked. Young women, in short dresses, getting into the back seats of strangers’ cars, disappearing into the night. In this town of people who wanted to win and drink and take? No way an opportunity for generosity was what they were paying for.” (p30,31)
This is such a powerful read and an outstanding murder/mystery. Aside from the potent discussion about women’s role in society, the male gaze, addiction, women in poverty, mental health and post -natal depression, this is an intoxicating narrative that gives voice to the victims, to the dead. I loved how we got to know the victims before the path they trod led to their death. The victims were seen for the potential they briefly held, for the innocents they once were, for the daughters, mothers, school kids, friends, family they had been before they became victims.
And this is Caitlin Mullen’s debut novel!!! What an exhilarating read. I cannot wait to read more from this author. I predict awards, lots of awards.
You had me at the setting, Carol! I’ve been in Atlantic City several times, including on the boardwalk, so I can picture it. It sounds like a haunting (no pun intended!) story, too, with some interesting characters.
It is easy to visualise the settings – even if you have no first hand knowledge ( I haven’t travelled to the US), the saddest setting – the body dump area – I can see it clearly.
I have an arc of this title for review so I was delighted to read that you really enjoyed it. Thanks.
This was an amazing read – I hope you enjoy it too.
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