How crime writer R.D. Cain avoids cliché
At the same time, I'm impressed when a crime writer manages to make a hoary set-up fresh. That's why I think Dark Matter, by the Canadian crime writer R.D. Cain, just might work.
The novel opens with a young woman slowly recovering consciousness to find she has been imprisoned in basement. Now, if the author were Scandinavian, you know what would happen to the young woman, and the only question is whether her demise would be even bloodier than you imagine. And you would never hear her voice except in a scream that seemed to consume her entire being and echo forever. etc, etc.
Such chapters, (lovingly) intent as they are on portraying the victim's agony, never do her the honor of giving her a voice, much less a sense of humor. Cain does both. First the humor:
"The feeling she had was familiar, high and weightless like vapor floating in infinite blue sky. She had tried oxys before and this felt similar. It was a warm, cozy feeling, like being wrapped in a warm blanket and having every inch of her body hugged by someone she loved. This kind of drug didn't appeal to her."The voice comes when the woman discovers she has two fellow prisoners, also young women. The three talk, and not entirely with teeth-chattering fear. Whatever Cain intends to do with the young victims, they feel like characters for whom a reader might feel empathy. And that's a lot more than one can say for the endless succession of mangled straw men and women thrown up in so many first chapters.
(Dark Matter is published by ECW Press, one of the publishers I highlighted in my recent Philadelphia Inquirer article "Eight Crime Writers Worth Tracking Down.")
© Peter Rozovsky 2012