Two women, one of whom is just sixteen, form an unlikely bond as they try to understand why numerous women have disappeared in Atlantic City. Ava, who goes by Clara Voyant, is a teenaged psychic who tries to solve the missing cases with the help of Lily Louten, an aspiring art gallery owner.
Ava who works a tarot shop on the boardwalk had done readings for some of the victims before they disappeared. Though she seems strong, Ava turns out to be nearly as vulnerable as some of the Jane Does.
What gives her an edge, though, is her psychic abilities which allow her to sees visions–a blurry image of traffic lights, a crying baby, a loose tooth, a bracelet.
The novel returns again and again to the motif of sight. Luis, a custodian, is a careful observer who cannot hear or speak. He carries, however, a piece of paper with the words, “I see.” The plot turns on what Luis, a derided outcast, can see and what Clara, a teenaged psychic can see.
Mullen’s plot provides lots of tension and surprises. More than one character is concealing something pertinent or is somehow deluding himself or herself.
Mullen describes Julie’s psychological trauma and inclination to self-harm extremely well. Readers are given a direct window into her soul.
A novel with similar themes is Simone St. James, The Sun Down Motel.
Please See Us was recently awarded an Edgar for best first novel.