by Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield, published 2011by Kepler Press,
In Hide and Seek, Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield takes the usual murder mystery formula and turns it upside down. Right from the start we know who the murderer is, so what is going to keep us interested? What is left to solve? In this case, the puzzle is not who the murderer is, but who is trying to track down the murderer, and why.
Told in the first person, the story unfolds through the eyes of young, spoiled David Draper. Madly in love with the captivating actress Melanie Carson, David strangles her one night in a fit of jealous rage, then anxiously waits for the Boston Police to come calling. Still free six months later, he is invited to join his sister and aunt in a Murder Mystery weekend on a tiny island off the coast of
Starting a mystery from this reversed viewpoint requires the author to pique our interest in a different way from usual. It is a psychological mystery rather than an action-based one, relying on character study to keep us engaged. I have only read one other mystery with a similar perspective. In L.R.Wright’s wonderful novel, The Suspect, eighty-year-old George Wilcox is provoked into striking another elderly soul on the head and kills him. As in David’s situation, it was not planned or even thought of ahead of time, yet there it is—murder—and what to do about it? In both instances, the question is not who is the murderer, but will he get away with it?
There is another question for us as the reader, and this produces a different kind of tension in the story. The dichotomy between the person we get to know and the one who committed murder, creates a psychological unease. In this case, David is a pleasant, ordinary fellow, not the kind of person you would expect to strangle someone! Since we see everything from his point of view, we share his anxiety and are forced to have sympathy for his dilemma, despite ourselves. Do we want the detective to discover him or not? He’s nice. But, he killed someone! How can we like someone capable of that? How do we resolve our conflicting feelings? This conflict is sustained throughout the book as we get to know David better and see him interact with others. Though guilty, he “feels” innocent.
The resolution of the problem is not as tidy as I would like (one murder too many, some action with no obvious effect on the plot…) but overall Kaplan-Maxfield accomplishes his goal. We are intrigued and uncertain about the outcome right to the end. Will David get away with murder? You’ll have to read Hide and Seek to find out.