Manuel Muñoz – What You See in the Dark

Title: What You See In the Dark
Author: Manuel Muñoz
Genre: mystery, drama

“Bakersfield was nothing to sing about.”

Whispers before and after a local murder. Gasps before and during a movie murder. Manuel Muñoz’s debut novel teases out meanings in the light (and absence of it) in the roadside community of Bakersfield, California. The outskirts of the town are the proposed filming location for a short section of Alfred Hitchcock’s upcoming film entitled Psycho. At the same time, romantic entanglements between several townspeople lead to one violent death. The chapters wind around these two events, settling into the perspectives of the characters as the plot sneaks upon the reader.

Muñoz writes with calm confidence and a vague quality suited to the format of the story. The parallels between Psycho and this novel’s events are not overbearingly direct. Yet, like Hitchcock‘s film, What You See in the Dark plays with audience and character expectations of climax and motive. The presence of famous names and titles is kept lower-case, in tune with the mood. Towards the end of the second third of the book, a sudden rush momentarily breaks the novel’s spell. The following pages, however, regain the sensitivity that is the novel’s strength. Hints of thoughts and sensory details carve out many facets of experience, crafting with literal darkness as well as the obscurity of dreams and mystery.

What is admirable about this book is how it allows differing reactions and choices to be presented, with a tone undulating between intimate warmth and indifferent distance. What You See in the Dark seeks not to depict but evoke. It dwells within shadows, where the experiences that are impossible to replicate are easy to recall — or suggest.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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Diandra Rodriguez

Proudly Latinasian NorCal American.

1 Response

  1. September 25, 2014

    […] my favorite 2011 book releases happen to be titles I’ve reviewed for YAM Magazine — What You See in the Dark for fiction, and The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds for non-fiction — I thought I’d write […]

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