Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Review: Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen

Title: Please See Us
Author: Caitlin Mullen
Published: March 2020, Gallery Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 352 pages
Source: Netgalley

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.

My thoughts: There is nothing I love more than finding a unique voice in a genre that at times feels over-saturated with the same-old. That's not to say that I don't love reading these books or that I will ever tire of these books, or at least not any time soon, but when one comes along that has that little something different, you definitely take notice.

This debut novel is certainly not going to be for everyone as it is dark and haunting, yet it is also completely captivating. It is the type of book where the setting absolutely works in favor of the story - Atlantic City is not what it used to be and this author was able to capture that in her writing and use it to full effect. The closed up shops, the empty board walks, dark hotels - it just lends itself to a dark, chilling setting and you already get that sense of foreboding and that stays with you throughout the story.

The book is told from many viewpoints and this can be confusing at first, but in the end it really comes together quite nicely. While all the characters are flawed and have dark pasts full of secrets, I found myself quite drawn to their stories, desperate to know more. I especially liked that we hear from the victims - the "Jane Does" and while this in and of itself is quite chilling, it is this unique angle that gives this book an edge over the usual serial killer story. 

There is also a small supernatural element to this story that I think worked perfectly. Normally, I am not a fan of this kind of thing, but here I found it to be just right. Having Clara be a clairvoyant teen just seemed to make sense, especially with the Atlantic City setting. It wasn't over the top and this supernatural element actually gives the book a bit of a creepy vibe, which just adds to the overall suspense in my opinion.

This is the type of book that sticks with you long after you have finished reading it. It's heartbreaking and dark, yet the writing is phenomenal. I am definitely going to be keeping an eye out for what Caitlin Mullen writes next!

This is not your typical fast-paced thriller, but rather a slow-burn

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