In 1959, a young Latino woman, Teresa Garza, who works in a shoe shop, catches the eye of the most sought-after young man in town, Dan Watson, making her the instant envy of every other girl in Bakersfield. But the love story has a tragic ending, with Teresa brutally murdered and Dan disappearing, never to be heard from again. Against this dramatic backdrop, a film director and actress come to town looking for a location to use as the motel in a new movie: Psycho, and in an ironic turn of events end up at the motel belonging to young Dan Watson’s mother.
This fabulous narrative is well written for the most part, and is brilliantly noir. The setting of the appalling murder against the background of a town being considered as a location for a seminal horror movie is as fresh and innovative as the concept of the film itself in 1950s America. The depiction of the entire story through the eyes of the people in the book, all of whom allude to the murder, is an excellent device, and very similar to the always delicately veiled violence of the movies of the early 1950s, where violence was implied, or referred to, or shown in a sanitised form; never graphic or in-your-face.
What You See in the Dark is a great read that holds the attention of the reader by revealing details, motives and other aspects of the story steadily, but not slowly, throughout.