Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Please See Us

Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen
Simon & Schuster: 3/3/20
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9781982127480

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.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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