The concept of this book intrigued me – while the whole world is watching a tragedy unfold, another takes place unnoticed in the wings. Edith Boone has taken her daughter Eleanor to watch the parade – but when the shots ring out, everyone is focused on the death of the President, even Edith, and in the midst of the shock and horror Eleanor disappears, never to be seen again. A smaller scale tragedy in some respects, but in many, far more disturbing. But why did Edith never report her daughter missing?
Fifty years’ later Gary Blanchet, small-time journalist, is covering the case of a missing local girl, and by chance meets the now senile Edith, who begs him to find her daughter. But Gary has his own problems – a divorce and a teenage son on his plate – and has no idea that his carelessly given promise to help will involve him in a tale of corruption and conspiracy. Alongside him is Lydia Collins, disgraced psychic, who is determined to tell the truth. Throw in a school shooting, a tragic tale of infanticide, and the seedy underbelly of the ruling elite, and you have a complex and rewarding thriller that successfully melds the personal with the political.
The story is told alternately by Gary and Lydia, whose antagonistic relationship is depicted with warmth and understanding. The link between them is Gary’s son Tyler, who has a secret of his own; and his determination to find understanding is the catalyst that brings Gary and Lydia into their uneasy alliance. I found Lydia’s narration in particular very gripping and intriguing; she is a sympathetic character, whose gift has brought her personal tragedy. Gary is a realistic single dad, sometimes failing to juggle work and parenting effectively; his voice was very compelling.
But what worked most for me was that not everything – in terms of the mystery – was resolved; this lent a feel of poignancy to the story, and increased the impact of the “smaller” victories – the repair of relationships, the growth of a deeper compassion. The impact of big events on individuals also came across very strongly, and I was swept up in the characters’ journeys, which has left me with a slightly different perspective on the famous historical events depicted. Every person in that crowd has their own story, as important as those key players; was there a lost little girl in that crowd?
While No One Was Watching is a satisfying, well-crafted thriller, but it is also a rewarding tale of family bonds, and the complexity of human emotions. For each tiny decision taken, there are ripples outward, and no one can know where they will end. ***
Parthian Books, 2013, ISBN 9781908946324