SparkleWritten by Rudy Yuly – In a luxurious house in the hills above Seattle, Assistant DA Silver, his wife and their six-year-old daughter Lucy are found brutally beaten to death. Detective George Louis and his partner Pinky Bjorgesen are assigned the case. Once the forensic team have done what they have to do, the house is turned over to the professional cleaners. Sparkle is a team of two brothers, Joe and Eddie Jones, who specialise in cleaning up the aftermath of violent death scenes. Joe is a misanthropic, chain-smoking baseball addict who runs the business, but it is Eddie who actually does the cleaning work. Eddie is deeply autistic and locked into his own strange world by childhood trauma. Joe is also a prisoner, but of a different kind. While he profits from Eddie’s uncanny ability to convert an abattoir of a murder scene back into a normal house, he is literally his brother’s keeper. No-one else can manage the repetitive rituals and piano-wire tensions of Eddie’s life.
While the hunt goes on for the killer of the Silver family, the brothers are called in again to clean up a seemingly unrelated multiple shooting in an illegal Chinese gambling house. In the Silver house, while Eddie went through his exhaustive and surreal cleaning ritual he was led to something tangible which may hold a clue to the killer’s identity. Once again, in the bloody aftermath of the Chinese shooting, he is shown something that the police have missed.
Rudy Yuly is a screenwriter and there is a clear sense of the visual in his clear and direct writing. We know within a sentence or two exactly what people look like and how they move and talk. Eddie sees things with almost microscopic clarity. His vision gives us a vivid picture, in particular of Jolie Walker, the beautiful zoo attendant who takes him for a weekly walk around the pens and enclosures. This book does not do comfort, and I physically wriggled with embarrassment at the poignant exchanges between tongue-tied Joe and his wary girlfriend LaVonne.
The author does a brilliant job of letting us see, hear and smell Eddie’s world through his own senses. Sparkle is disturbing and edgy, and there is a great deal of compassion extended to those who have to deal with Eddie’s shortcomings and strange gifts. We are taken on a high-risk course. It is one thing to introduce a supernatural element into a story through the perceptions of one person as this can be explained away by mood, confusion or the power of suggestion. It is another thing altogether to have a piece of physical evidence pass from the spirit world, via the live intermediary, into the hands of those who are conducting a murder investigation.
This is such a difficult book to categorise. Yes, there is criminality and yes, there is detection. But the bedrock here is a description of misunderstanding, loss, and inadequacy. Perfectly decent people blunder about trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. Bit by bit what really damaged the lives of these brothers is revealed. The original killer is finally unmasked, but the story is less about that than it is about the terrifying and bewildering world of autism. My only caveat about the story is the supernatural element. Readers who find it troublesome will find the book less satisfying than someone who simple accepts it and lets themselves be carried along with the narrative.