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Undetected

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At best a mediocre read, and spoilt by problematic content which leaves a dark stain on the entire novel.

While I think there were some promising elements to this novel, there is unfortunately a few really problematic elements that do stand out and could do with being cleaned up in Marshall's future writing. 

 

The plot follows the detective work of Alex, who suspects his father's new wife, Suzy, has a little more to her past than she is letting on. The story is about Alex and the process he goes through of discovering suspicious things about Suzy and how he tries to put the pieces of her identity together before he fears it will be too late. 

 

The main thing I was uncertain of when reading, was how the readers where actually meant to feel about Suzy. Personally, I felt extremely sorry for her. Through her backstory, Marshall showed us she was a cancer survivor, had lost a child to miscarriage, was a sexual assault survivor, and an extremely lonely woman with a lot of PTSD and deep trauma. I'm not actually sure if Marshall wanted his readers to feel like this towards Suzy, but I almost couldn't help with sympathising towards this character who was meant to be murderous and evil.

 

Perhaps if we as readers were not meant to emphasise with Suzy, Marshall could have gone a little further in pushing her one way or the other. Either she is evil and meant to be hated, or she is a complex character who is deeply traumatised. I personally love the second portrayal, and think it would have been fantastic to see this side of Suzy explored more. 

 

One of the things that made it hardest to connect with the story was the character of Alex. The story is mainly told by him and he is the character playing detective and rescuer. Yet Alex is far from the morally high character he thinks he is. There were a few situations that really stuck out about Alex which made him deeply unlikable. The first is his affair. The mention is so brief that you would blink and miss it but I have to wonder, why it is there? For me it just made me dislike his character. Here he was judging Suzy (with no real reason at that point in the novel) when he himself is far from ethically perfect. His affair is never mentioned again and nobody even finds out and I do wonder why Marshall added this detail when he could have spent more time devolving deeper into Suzy's complex mind instead. Again, so brief but so worrying, is Alex's inner thoughts about 'stealing a look at women's legs' when comparing it to a fascination with murders. He comes across as rather creepy when reading this as a female. Alex is portrayed as such a typical good guy, and I found myself annoyed that he was wearing this good guy mask the entire novel and yet got away with it. Maybe the true title 'undetected' applies far more to Alex than it does to Suzy. 

 

The main thing that ruined the tone of this novel, was the way Marshall described the women and children in his novel at times. Firstly, when Marshall describes Suzy's sexual assault at a young age. I would advise readers not to go near this novel if they do struggle and are triggered by sexual assault, and I did not enjoy the detail Marshall went to when describing the sexual assault of a child. Secondly, Marshall described Sally as wearing a 'charcoal dress' that did nothing to 'conceal her plumpness'. As an advocate of body positivity, this stuck out to me as an awful and completely unnecessary description. What does drawing attention to Sally's 'plumpness' add to the story? This could have definitely donewith an edit out here. Thirdly, was this line about Alex's teenage daughter: 'She had on a pair of light nylon shorts and a gray athletic t-shirt that didn't hide the chest she was developing'. I was horrified of this strongly sexual reference to a child's body and did not feel it was at all appropriate or necessary for Marshall to have to mention a child's chest developing. Though I did finish the novel, I was not able to get past these horrible descriptions and they did stick with me and certainly ruined the tone of the novel. Perhaps if Marshall does write again, it might be worth doing some investigation and educating on this element of writing.

 

Unfortunately, I would advise that you do not read this book as I do not feel like Marshall's writing is right at all and in no way respects women,children or abuse survivors. If you can get past these issue, the novel isn't awful, but overall the plot is not overly unique and the problematic content leaves a dark stain on the entire novel.

Reviewed by

I am a passionate book lover an reader. I love discovering new stories and seeing how writers have approached new ideas. I am studying literature at university and am a creative writer myself so am always in awe of other writers and the unique elements of their works.

UNDETECTED

About the author

Jeffrey Marshall is a retired journalist and the author of three books besides Undetected, including Little Miss Sure Shot, a historical novel about Annie Oakley. He was a reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist and book reviewer. He lives in Scottsdale, AZ, with his wife, Judy, and two dogs. view profile

Published on March 31, 2020

Published by GoToPublish

70000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Mystery & Crime

Reviewed by