Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review of Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (Pocket Books, 2009)

Marion Seeley is married to an older man, a doctor with a morphine addiction. Struck off from practising, her husband has abandoned her in Phoenix and headed to Mexico to work for a mining company. Living in a guest house, Marion finds work in a medical clinic where she meets Louise, a woman who lives on the edge and by her wits. Louise invites the lonely Marion to the parties that she and her housemate, the sickly Ginny, host in which they entertain some of town’s most powerful men. The three of them quickly become friends, Marion spending ever more time at their house. At one of the parties Marion meets Joe Lanigan, a well connected businessman and womaniser, and falls for his charms. Unable to resist, she takes ever more risks that puts her on a murderous collision course with her friends, who rely on Lanigan to stay above the breadline.

Bury Me Deep is inspired by the notorious 1931 ‘trunk murders’ crime. It follows certain factual aspects of that story to frame the narrative, but the story itself is fiction and the ending is substantially different. There is plenty to like about the book, but the real strengths for me are the prose, the pace, the character development, and the plotting. Abbott is clearly something of a wordsmith and the prose is very nicely written. The pace is even and relenting, where it could have been rushed. This I think allows the story and characters to develop and the rationale for the crime that occurs about three fifths into the story to become clear. The characters are all well penned, especially the three lead women and their developing relationship, and the plot is well constructed with a good sense of historical detail. The only thing that seemed to be missing for me was a strong sense of place and geography. I had to keep reminding myself that it was set in Phoenix. I just got no real sense of the town or its landscape or indeed its social organisation and people beyond there being a group of important men that ran the place. As a result, the book felt a little decontextualized, reduced to the relationships between the four main characters and the distant Dr Seeley. Nevertheless, this is superior crime fiction and is well worth checking out.


Dorte H said...

After your post the other day I was very curious to see what you thought about it. I hardly ever read about true crimes, but I was just bowled over by this one. It was like being in the theatre, wanting to shout to Marion to get away - now!

Rob Kitchin said...

Dorte, I agree. It had a very close atmosphere.

Kerrie said...

I liked it too Rob