Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Mary Burton has proven herself exceptionally capable at chasing after serial killers, at least where the realm of her novels is concerned. In her new thriller, Don’t Look Now, we follow Austin homicide detective Jordan Poe as she hunts for a serial killer who not only attacked her sister two years ago, but recently tried to claim her life as well, leaving her partially blinded, but ever-more determined to track him down.
Table of contents
Mary Burton Starts the Eyeless Investigation
Since Jack the Ripper made himself known to mankind, serial killers have become a topic of immense interest for all sorts of people, from detectives and psychologists to regular Joes like you and I. In popular culture, we’ve become accustomed to a specific dynamic, with serial killers running from investigators, and perhaps having a confrontation at the climax. In Mary Burton‘s Don’t Look Now, she flips the tables on her detective, and turns her into an unlikely prey.
The story begins by introducing us to Jordan Poe, a homicide detective working in Austin, tasked with a case which promises to be the defining moment of her career. She must track down a brutal and extremely active serial killer, one she is certain attacked her sister Avery two years ago, who miraculously survived but not without some heavy psychological scars.
She is more determined than ever to put an end to the killer’s reign of terror, but the bodies are piling up, and it seems as if she’s making little progress, the resentful lone wolf she is. However, during her inspection of the third crime scene, she herself becomes a victim of an assault which leaves her partially-blind, facing a world she can no longer recognize.
This is where Texas Ranger Carter Spencer comes into play. He generally isn’t one to meddle into other law enforcement officials’ affairs, but Jordan’s condition leaves her little choice but turning to the man to help her bring the case to a conclusion. Lacking her own sight, she must rely on him to become her eyes (and in some cases, ears) in hopes of continuing her investigation.
Undeterred her trauma, she is more determined than ever to track the killer down, and so is Carter Spencer, potentially for his own reasons. Without Jordan’s extensive experience, resolve and wisdom though, he doesn’t stand much of a chance of doing anything on his own. The killer, however, seems to always be a few steps ahead of everyone, and no one but him can see what’s ultimately coming.
Navigating the Dim World of Don’t Look Now
While our protagonists chasing after serial killers tend to be at a disadvantage versus their opponents, they still have potent enough abilities to make us think of them as the hunters. We have no doubt they can stand up for themselves (whether physically or through intelligent deductions) and rarely feel as if they themselves are prey.
In Don’t Look Now, Mary Burton flips the script quite handily, turning her protagonist into a victim, one who has been robbed of her independence, and by herself can do little against the man seemingly intent on ruining her family’s life. Thankfully though, she doesn’t make her completely hopeless and gives her a few things to work with, namely her super-powered detective brain which becomes her greatest asset.
Observing her continued struggle to apprehend the killer while leaning on Carter Spencer for support and fumbling this way and that, but never giving up, gives the story a truly inspiring atmosphere, making it more than a mere chase after an evildoer. On a deeper level, it’s about a strong woman forced into a life-changing situation, one depriving her of an autonomy central to her character, and her way of coping with it.
Mary Burton, in my opinion, does an absolutely fantastic job at translating Jordan’s point of view to the reader, making us not only understand the profound consequences of her disability, but also feel them for ourselves, even if only for a brief moment in our imagination. Though at the onset it makes us pity her fate, step-by-step, we become used to it like she does, and merely come to see it as a challenge to be worked around, rather than a life-ending event.
The scenes were Spencer helps Jordan make her way through the world and fills in the blanks caused by her lack of vision are poignantly developed, with a tangible chemistry budding between the two as they get increasingly accustomed to the arrangement. Pretty soon, we come to think of them as a solid unit who, together, have the all the makings of a brilliant and, most importantly, fully-functional detective.
The Backstage Observer
Don’t Look Now may be a whole lot more beneath the surface than a regular serial killer thriller, but don’t let this fool you one bit: Mary Burton never forgets the core concept of her book, and the genre in which it is classified. The chase after the serial killer never takes second place to anything, consistently moving forward, sometimes a little more slowly than others, but moving nevertheless.
The villain in question is truly insidious and clever, and we don’t even need to meet him to make this sort of appraisal. His body of work speaks for him quite well, and like all great antagonists, his presence increasingly fills the pages as we progress through the story, and this despite his personal absence from most scenes.
I think the author succeeded with flying colours in making the killer the perfect backstage observer, someone whose eyes we can constantly feel on the characters. We get the sense he’s always somewhere out there, but never too far away, watching intently from the total safety of his shadows and planning his next move. Ultimately, he’s a worthy foe for our investigative duo.
Rest assured, there are plenty of twists and turns to follow throughout this crooked investigation, many of which drastically change the course of events. Actually, I find it quite amazing the author found the time and place to tackle topics besides the main plot, speaking to her tremendous skill as a writer, knowing when to insert ancillary details without disturbing the flow of the story.
Naturally, we know the villain is bound to be caught by our protagonists, but Mary Burton is quite good at making us forget this concept, stringing us along the illusion he might gain a permanent upper hand on Jordan and Carter at any moment (of course, the book would pretty much end if he did). In other words, it succeeds in doing what every great thriller has managed to done, making the reader forget about foregone conclusions and experience the story in the present, right as it’s happening.
|367||Montlake||Sept. 28 2021||978-1542021456|
The Final Verdict
Don’t Look Now by Mary Burton is a gem of a serial killer thriller, flipping the script on its head and pitting a disabled detective against an unnaturally cunning foe. From the investigation itself, to the dynamic between the protagonists and various oblique topics explored, this novel has all the makings of a memorable page-turner.
If you’re looking for a murder mystery and are keen on watching a mostly-blind detective and her navigator embark on a wild and twisted chase after a truly devious killer, then this is definitely the right novel for you.
Mary Burton is an American author from Richmond, Virginia, now residing in North California. A graduate of Virginia Hollins University, she saw her first book published back in 2000, and has since authored dozens of novels and short stories, including New York Times and USA Today bestsellers such as I See You, Near You, The Lies I Told and Don’t Look Now.