Where I Can See You
Hud Matthews did detective work back in Detroit but after he shot his snitch, he thought it better to return to Lake Demmie, his old home grounds, out there in the sticks in the middle west. No sooner did he arrive than people started getting murdered: the lake's Conservation Officer, his wife, and a local tough guy.Single shot. To the head. Very Professional.
As is always true in novels like this, Matthews is considered to be a thorn in the side of the local police, an outsider. Most of all, trouble for Paul Burke, the chief, his old pal. They may have grown up buddies, but now Burke is easily irritated by Hud's inability to let go of their memories of growing up and do his detective work.
Worst of all is him returning again and again to the memory of the loss of his mother. Hud was eight years old, and she was sweet, and lovely, and one day he watched as she climbed into a black car and was swept away into . . . nothingness. She never returned, he never saw her again, and his search has never ended, even these many years later. Everyone, including the reader, gets to hear about it. Again and again.
This is good stuff. Hud is appropriately salty, self-chastizing, relentless, and drinks and smokes too much. Each of the chapters is intercut with what we suppose is him in back-and-forth with his shrink:
"How long have you and Burke been friends?"
"I think I've known him all of my life. One day he was just there, and always has been."
"But you were best friends as kids, right?"
"I wouldn't say that. I don't think I ever said that."It is only later, near the end, that we learn where these questions are coming from, and why.
It's one of those crime novels you don't really want to put down. It's filled with neat, gritty dialogue, and we rapidly change our minds as to whodunnit. There's no end of old holiday lakeside run-down fall-apart pop-cord hot-dog fall-apart Ferris Wheel atmosphere. It is rare that the descriptions overwhelm one, although it does happen ("The world beyond Sloane's Crown Vic was covered in nervous darkness and filled with the fog of uncertainty . . . ") but Where I Can See You, Sweazy's fourth novel, does deliver, is especially timely.
There are the drugs taking over middle America - - - pot and OxyContin and meth - - - and people remembering the old days, the 1960's and 70's when people filled the cottages around Lake Demmie and now it's all decaying and where are the good people, the good, caring neighbors from back then and people out of work?
At times we want to bop Hud (and the author) on the cupola when the story returns once again to my-mother-left-me-and-we-don't-know-why routine. A kid's loss does leave unrelenting pain, but a thoughtful writer should learn how to ration out these details to make them not pathetic but empathetic.
--- Pamela Wylie