John Marvel is the main character of The Shut Eye, Belinda Bauer’s latest thriller. He has been an unlikable recurring character in her books, an abrasive police inspector, but previously, he has always been peripheral to the story.
Marvel is obsessed by an unsolved case, the disappearance of Edie Evans, who vanished on her way to school 11 months earlier. Her bike was found a few days later. Marvel has been fighting to keep the case open.
But it’s another case that we encounter first. Marvel saves a young woman from jumping off a bridge one night. She is Anna Buck, whose little boy Daniel wandered out of the house one day and hasn’t been seen since. Anna is distraught and blames her husband James for accidentally leaving the door open.
Marvel is revolted to have his new chief, Clyde, ask him to do him a favor, help find his wife’s dog. Clyde’s wife Sandra has been attending psychic sessions at a church, and Anna meets her there. The sessions are run by Richard Latham, who tried to help police in the Edie Evans case.
When Anna looks at the photo Sandra gives her of herself and her dog, she has her own psychic experience. She sees a garden that looks artificial. When she tells this to Inspector Marvel, he is disturbed to remember that Richard Latham made a similar remark. But he doesn’t believe in the supernatural, so he thinks Latham said something to Anna. Even more disturbing is the blurred picture of Edie on her bicycle that appears in the background of the photo, taken weeks after Edie’s disappearance and while her bicycle was impounded by the police.
We know that Edie has drawn a picture of a garden on the walls of her prison, because we periodically visit her. What we don’t know is when we see her within the time frame of the main story.
This is the first time I recall Bauer’s books having any supernatural content. I don’t know if she plans to have more or not. This is also the first time that Marvel is a main character, and although we don’t like him, we understand him better.
As usual, Bauer kept me riveted to the page. This novel is a little more mystery than thriller, but her last two novels seem to be moving in that direction.