Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen
Simon & Schuster: 3/3/20
eBook review copy; 352 pages
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen is a highly recommended debut psychological thriller set during a summer dangerous to women in Atlantic City.
There is a serial killer on the loose in Atlantic City. We know this
as we are introduced to the Jane Does numbers 1 through 6; some of the
women we meet in the story before they are killed and left in the
marshland behind the Sunset Motel. Two young women meet in Atlantic City
during this uneasy time. One, Lily, is just there for the summer,
working at a casino spa, hoping to make some money and recover from a
bad experience in NYC where she worked at an art gallery. The other is a
teenager who goes by Clara Voyant. Clara is living with her aunt and
working as a boardwalk psychic reading tarot cards. Neither woman knows
that there is a killer loose, but, after a reading for a prostitutes
nicknamed Peaches, Clara begins to have visions and suspects it. She
hopes Lily could help her, but Lily is struggling with her own problems.
Atlantic City is as much a character as the people in this dark,
gritty, heartbreaking story. Both Clara and Lily are well-developed
characters while victims and other minor characters are also well
defined. The narrative is told through different first person
points-of-view, including Clara, Lily, Luis (a janitor), and the
victims. I will admit being very angry at Des, Clara's aunt, throughout
the novel. Truth be told, I could rant about all the residual anger I
have at her for stealing from Clara while expecting Clara to use her sex
to earn rent their money from older men. Clearly, violence against
women and the fates of women living on the edge of society and becoming
victims is at the forefront of this plot - but, then, Luis is also a
victim at the hands of violent men.
The fact that I became emotionally involved in Please See Us,
makes it evident that Mullen did an excellent job writing her debut
novel. There are so many wounded, hurting people in this novel. They all
have secrets, but feel they have no one they can trust, and Mullen does
a good job describing these people living on the edge. The novel is
atmospheric and sets the time and place at the beginning. This makes it a
little slow to start and takes a while to get the plot rolling along,
but once it reaches about the half-way point it takes off. Clearly,
Mullen is an author to watch.
My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.