AND SHE WAS first came to my attention as the result of a somewhat unique promotional item. The token in question that was sent to me with the book was an oversized milk carton. One side of it bore a “MISSING” heading with a photo and biographical information regarding Iris Neff, a child whose unsolved disappearance serves as one of the catalysts for the plot. The novel is even more intriguing than its promotion (always a good thing), a somber, complex and intriguing story of how lives are forever changed by a moment’s action.
"...a somber, complex and intriguing story of how lives are forever changed by a moment’s action.... AND SHE WAS is the first in a projected series that promises to acquire a strong following due in large part to Spector, an extremely interesting and unique protagonist."
Alison Gaylin’s debut introduces Brenna Spector, a private investigator who is blessed and cursed with Hyperthymestic Syndrome, the ability to remember any date or moment of one’s life and recall it perfectly with all five senses. The elements that can be recalled also include telephone numbers, book passages, names, faces, and everything one might encounter during the course of a day. It sounds wonderful, but as demonstrated here, there are times when it is anything but, given that the recall operates with respect not only to the sunshine but also to the rain that falls into every life. Spector specializes in finding missing persons, due in no small part to the fact that her older sister disappeared without a trace when Spector was young. She now devotes her life and practice to assisting those who have experienced the emotional loss that she has.
In 1998, Spector was involved in the search for a six-year-old girl named Iris Neff, who abruptly went missing from her suburban New York town. She is now brought back to the area when she is hired by Norman Wentz to locate his wife, Carol, who has suddenly disappeared from the same area. As she begins her investigation, Spector slowly begins to uncover ties between Carol Wentz and Iris Neff, as well as to Iris’ mother, who has not been heard from for two years and has seemingly vanished herself.
Meanwhile, Spector’s investigation is not exactly welcomed by the local authorities. She is haunted by her past failure to locate Iris and her ties to the current case, and is bothered by the fact that her client, a somewhat odd man to begin with, may well know more than he admits about his wife and the reason for her disappearance. When Carol’s absence becomes tied to a series of killings that have occurred in the area, Spector starts to follow a trail that stretches from the past and into the present, and finds that her investigation may have marked her as the next in a line of murder victims.
AND SHE WAS is the first in a projected series that promises to acquire a strong following due in large part to Spector, an extremely interesting and unique protagonist. While I could do without some aspects of Spector’s indispensable assistant (a metrosexual named Trent, who is constantly on the make when he’s not on the clock), the occasional appearance of Maya, Spector’s teenage daughter (who is only marginally annoying) and the presence of a potential romantic interest (police detective Nick Morasco), they do provide a change of pace from the somber but riveting subject matter. Jump on to the series now, so you won’t have to catch up later.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 11, 2012