Sunday, April 28, 2019

31. The Babysitter by Andrew Coburn [Part 3 of the Maternal Anxiety Horror trio]

The Babysitter both disappointed me and exceeded my expectations.  It disappointed me simply because it is not at all the genre I assumed based on the cover and title.  It exceeded my expectations because it is a brooding, hard almost noirish mystery that is quite good.  It's a great find and was an enjoyable read but It doesn't fit into this series at all!  I guess part of my assumption about its genre was that I found it with The Crib and The Babysitter (parts 1 and 2 of this now badly named Maternal Anxiety Horror series) both of which are clearly horror novels.  Does this not look like a horror novel cover to you or could it also be mystery?

The Babysitter starts in media res with a stunned John Wright being interrogated by police in his own home after returning from a night out to find the babysitter dead in the hallway her head bludgeoned in and their 14-month old baby missing.  It's the 70s and John and his wife Merle had left their ad-copywriting jobs in Boston to come to one of the bedroom communities surrounding it.  We learn quickly that the babysitter, whom John met at the local college where he taught, had actually lied about her name and background.  Her real identity is a mystery as is the fate of the baby.

The authorities who arrive are manifold and useless at best.  The FBI are particularly malevolent and the couple feels they have to act on their own.  Their investigation takes them to various interesting locations around this part of Boston.  The location is strong here and there is a cast of characters similar to Denis Lehane book, though toned down.  The backstory, as it plays out is intriguing and takes the reader into some dark places to meet some pretty low characters.  It has a desperate, brooding atmosphere.  It's a hot summer and there is an aggression in all the dialogue and everyone seems uncomfortable. The style is laconic so I felt a bit distant at first, but after a while as the plot got more complex and interesting, it felt appropriate for the mood and it drew me in.

The Babysitter does close this series with a bit of a whimper thematically.  The sacrifice was worth it, however, for an obscure and enjoyable discovery.  I will now return to my regular non-programmed reading schedule.

The NYT Book Review should have clued me in that this wasn't horror.

1 comment:

Will Errickson said...

Oh, this sounds great! I'm familiar with that cover but had no idea about its contents.