Kristine Brancolini's Reviews > What You See in the Dark

What You See in the Dark by Manuel Muñoz
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's review
Apr 14, 2012

really liked it
Read from April 14 to 17, 2012

An intriguing first novel, What You See in the Dark is set in Bakersfield, California, during the late 1950s, and I was hooked from the first page. An unnamed narrator is spying on a young couple, a handsome young white man and his Chicana girlfriend. It is clear that the narrator is female and extremely jealous of the relationship. By page 23 the reader learns that the young woman will be killed by her boyfriend. The rest of this beautifully written short novel tells their story and the context that led to tragedy. A subplot revolves around the Actress (Janet Leigh), the Director (Alfred Hitchcock) and the movie for which they they come to Bakersfield to film some exterior scenes, Psycho.

As you read this short novel, the density of character development and meaning deepens. Author Munoz tells the story from the perspective of four women: 1) the unnamed narrator from Chapter 1, who turns out to be Candy, who works at a shoestore with 2) Teresa, abandoned by her mother and dreaming of a middle-class life,but who we know will be be killed at age 23; 3) the Actress, the unnamed Janet Leigh, who struggles to empathize with her character, a secretary having an affair with a married man; and 4) Arlene, middle-aged waitress, motel owner, and mother of the desireable young man, Dan, who kills Teresa. An uneasy pall hangs over the novel, a sense of dread even before the reader knows that Teresa will die. A freeway is coming that will isolate many of the businesses and change lives. Not really a mystery, What You See in the Dark is definitely Noir, portraying life in a quiet California town where nothing much happens, but violence seems to be just below the surface. What we see in the dark is both real and imagined.

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Reading Progress

04/14/2012 page 68
27.0% "This intriguing first novel is set in Bakersfield, California, and I was hooked from the first page. It begins with a romance between a white man and a Latina. Next comes in the Actress who is coming to town to shoot a couple of scenes. What's the connection? Can't wait to find out."
04/15/2012 page 147
59.0% "Just finished part 1. So, it turns out that Actress is Janet Leigh and Director is Alfred Hitchcock and the movie is "Psycho." The book has a very interesting narrative structure. The first chapter gives a brief synopsis of the story of Dan and Teresa, narrated by her co-worker at the shoe store. We know by page 23 that Teresa has been killed but how and why?"

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