DiscoverMystery & Crime

Undetected

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

Synopsis

Suzy Perry, a lovely, accomplished older woman, has married into a new family in Westchester County, NY, after being widowed not long before in Atlanta. Her new husband, Dean Perry, is besotted with her, but his son, Alex, and daughter-in-law Lisa are troubled by how little they know about her. Who is she?
Little by little, clues and tidbits of information persuade Alex that he needs to know more. As the questions pile up, Alex, a journalist, elects to hire a private detective to probe Suzy’s past, without informing his father. Over time, it becomes clear that Suzy changed her name when she moved to Atlanta – and that she had been married for many years to a car dealer in Missouri who died suddenly shortly before she left.
Is all this innocent, or something more sinister? Once circumstantial, the evidence becomes more concrete – and then Suzy is on the run.

*** Content Warning: sexual assault of a minor ***

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.

Synopsis

Suzy Perry, a lovely, accomplished older woman, has married into a new family in Westchester County, NY, after being widowed not long before in Atlanta. Her new husband, Dean Perry, is besotted with her, but his son, Alex, and daughter-in-law Lisa are troubled by how little they know about her. Who is she?
Little by little, clues and tidbits of information persuade Alex that he needs to know more. As the questions pile up, Alex, a journalist, elects to hire a private detective to probe Suzy’s past, without informing his father. Over time, it becomes clear that Suzy changed her name when she moved to Atlanta – and that she had been married for many years to a car dealer in Missouri who died suddenly shortly before she left.
Is all this innocent, or something more sinister? Once circumstantial, the evidence becomes more concrete – and then Suzy is on the run.

*** Content Warning: sexual assault of a minor ***

UNDETECTED


By Jeffrey Marshall

Copyright 2019

 

1.

She could almost smell the inside of the motel before she went in. With its whitewash fading and the vacancy sign missing an “n”, it would have the scent of cheap disinfectant and perhaps a slight mustiness. Suzy remembered that smell, but it had been years since she’d experienced it. She never thought she’d have to revisit it, but things were desperate now, she was on the run, and she had no choice. Enjoying the comforts of an upscale motel was out of the question.

She had left Rye in mid-morning, steering the Mercedes west across the car-choked George Washington Bridge and into New Jersey. Passing the shimmering high-rise apartment towers in Fort Lee, she’d stopped in Parsippany to rent a car, leaving the Mercedes skewed at an ungainly angle against the chain-link fence in the back of the lot. Her rented Ford Focus, she knew, would be far less conspicuous – but she realized unhappily that having to rent the car with a credit card would link her to it.

From here on, she would be paying only in cash. She’d made two large withdrawals from the bank’s ATM, gathering enough, she thought, that would easily get her to Little Rock and have plenty on hand to keep going, wherever her flight would take her.

Approaching Nashville, Suzy eased off I-40 just after the airport and headed north to the old Lebanon Pike, which meandered like a lazy gray river west into the city. She knew it just well enough from a previous trip to sense it was what she was looking for: an old commercial strip, peeling at the edges, graced – well, that wasn’t exactly the word – with warehouses, storage rental units and motels that had long ago ceded any claim to prominence to the chain properties huddled just off the interstate.

The motel clerk, a thin young man with close-cropped hair, a scraggly brown goatee and ear piercings, looked up with a crooked smile. Suzy didn’t know it, but the motel, in business for 62 years, had a local reputation as a spot for traveling salesmen on a budget and for daytime trysts for surreptitious lovers.

“Is this just for tonight?” he asked.

“Yes, just tonight.” She seemed a bit uneasy, looking about, but calm.

“That’ll be fifty-four dollars and forty-five cents, including tax.”

“Fine.” She reached into her wallet and brought out three twenties. As she’d suspected, she didn’t need to fill out any form or write down the make and license plate of her car.

He reached into the till, hidden from her view, and gave her change and handed her a key card. “Room 221 – it’s on the second floor. Just go down to your right a little ways and you’ll see the stairs going up there.” He seems sharp enough, she thought to herself, but I certainly don’t care for the look; maybe he’s an aspiring country artist, like so many in Nashville, and this is his idea of hip.

“Thank you.” She didn’t seem interested in making small talk, and so he simply smiled. She turned on her heels and walked toward the door, and he noticed that she limped perceptibly.

The room was only marginally better than Suzy had feared. It had a tired patina of the 70s, with dark brown curtains, a dark orange spread on the queen bed, and a window air conditioner, listing slightly, that seemed to be on its last legs. At least the room seemed clean. She set the suitcase on the bed, sat down beside it and sighed, and then her brain started working, plotting out the next day.

She glanced to her left and took in the upholstered chair. What struck her wasn’t the shape, which was utterly conventional, or even the condition – a sagging cushion and a slight rip in the seat – as much as the color, a deep burgundy.

It was the color of the tie Avery had been buried in – a favorite that his children had insisted on. Suzy had wanted him cremated: dust to dust. But a stipulation in his will she had been unaware of required a burial, and it was in a fine mahogany box, burnished to a rich sheen, with a creamy velvet interior and with gleaming brass handles. She’d lifted her eyebrows in surprise when she saw the price, but she paid it; some might have said it was the least Suzy could have done for a man who gave her 20 very fine years before she decided to kill him.


She pulled her phone from her purse and saw that there were several missed calls and a message from Dean – no surprise there. He would be shocked and concerned that she’d taken the car and left without a word. She went to her email and composed a new message for Sally – she needed to let her know she was on her way. Little Rock, here I come, she thought a bit dispiritedly. Diving into the proverbial arms of her best friend, who would have no idea what she was getting into.

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 explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Mystery & Crime

Reviewed by

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