Thursday, August 2

Now You See Her – Cecelia Tishy

After a lifetime of devotion, former socialite Reggie Cutter’s husband threw her over for a newer model. Now she must accustom herself to life on a budget while stepping into the shoes of her dead aunt Jo – as a landlord, and as a psychic who helps the police.
When Reggie’s asked by her realtor to check out a nineteenth century townhouse in a reclaimed suburb, she thinks it will be an easy task. But despite the overwhelming feelings of fascinated distress caused by the renovations (flocked Black power wallpaper, dismembered armour, and a chandelier of swords), Reggie doesn’t pick up anything psychically wrong.
And when the police officer who used to enlist her aunt asks her to help investigate the decade-old case of a man possibly wrongly convicted of the murder of the son of a senator-elect, that seems fairly straight forward too. But Reggie never expected the entanglement of both cases, the legacy of a tragedy from the 1880’s, and her intermittent psychic power would combine to shatteringly expose an unthinkable crime.
I don’t know where to start. How about with the fact that Now You See Her, a title that seems to have absolutely no relevance to the plot, reads as though it is the second or third in a series? There are multiple references to a previous case with Detective Frank Devaney, including an injury; her tenant; her shared custody of her aunt’s dog with a biker she barely knows; and her etiquette column. The back-story about her husband is alluded to but not discussed in the way one would expect for an introductory novel, her children are referenced even less often, though we do meet grown daughter Molly, and we're never told how Reggie came to live in her aunt’s house, how she and ex parted, how she discovered she had psychic abilities - none of that is discussed at all. It was so striking I checked three times (including a trip to Amazon) that there wasn’t a previous novel.
Then there’s the writing style – long sections with short, choppy sentences like this:
“A cry of pain sucked in and stifled. Muffled? Gagged? A gargling sound too. It’s over in a flash. A sound bite.
“I don’t move. It feels like forever. The steps recede, but with a new sound – a scraping. Dragging a heavy bag? A body? Every muscle in my body clenches”

“’Coffee on?’ he repeats
“’Pope Catholic?’
“’How fresh?’
“’Since last Tuesday.’”
Then there are the ridiculously implausible logic leaps. Like the determination, from an urban child mooing and bellowing, and saying that someone lived somewhere “like a farm” that the person Reggie was seeking lived on Angus Street (like the cattle breed).
There are constant summations, hardly necessary when the plot is as insubstantial as this. For example: “… my right thumb begins to hurt, burning as if scalded and raw… The one time my thumb hurt this way was when Devaney showed me [reprise of important plot point], the first and only time. It’s the pain triggered by [repeat reprise of important plot point].” Pages 291 - 294 reveal the conspiracy’s dénouement, which I must admit was a little clever and interesting. But Tishy has to beat the reader over the head with what could very easily have been a subtle realisation on Reggie’s part. Instead we have her connect every dot, then show us where each dot is, then describe each line connecting each dot, then recap the entire dot-connecting process. It was excruciating.
There is a sequel to Now You See Her. You’ll be stunned to learn that I have no interest whatsoever in reading it. Amazon reviewers may have given All In One Piece an average of four stars but even if I were inclined to give Tishy a second go, the ‘stunning’ cliff-hanger at the end of chapter three (which was, along of course with chapters one and two, included in Now You See Her) made it clear to me that this isn’t a series that will improve as it progresses.
According to the author blurb, Tishy’s a professor of American literature. As an aspiring academic I don’t general subscribe to the idiom, but I’ll make an exception here – those who do write; those who can’t teach literature. - Alex

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