Saturday, August 08, 2009

BURY ME DEEP by Megan Abbott

Simon and Schuster, 2009 ISBN 978-1416599098

Bury Me Deep, Megan Abbott's fourth novel, is a 1930's set tale of abandonment, lust and painfully human mistakes that hooked this reader right from the first page. The voice - a beautifully choreographed, stylised and compelling third person narration - sucks you right in. Abandoned by her husband - a disgraced doctor who has gone to find work down in Mexico - in Pheonix, Marion Seeley finds work at a nearby medical clinic. With no life outside of work to speak of, she soon becomes enamoured with co-worker, Louise, a woman whose life outside of the wards seems exciting and glamorous to her innocent and naive new friend. But Louside isn't the one she has to worry about. When the charming and forceful Joe Lanigan appears on the scene, Marion soon discovers the dark side to her new friends' seemingly exuberant lifestyle and before long she finds herself sucked into a series of terrible events she could never have imagined.

As Abbott mentions in her afterword to this novel, Bury Me Deep is inspired by one of LA's most publicised true crime tales of the 1930's, that of "the trunk murderess" Winnie Ruth Judd. It was an intriguing, and Abbott's fictional re-imagining of what could have led to such a tragic end is both inspired its sheer imaginative power and the ferocity of Abbott's research which evokes the social, physical and historical power of the period. As I have previously mentioned, Abbott's voice is spellbinding; her prose literally singing, pulling you in, making you believe every word you're reading. What is most impressive is the way that Abbott fools into believing the contemporary nature of her prose. The rhythm feels very much of the time, and yet maintains a modern sparseness and directness that means the book feels absolutely immediate to the reader. You are quite literally pulled back in time with Abbott, experiencing her 1930's noir world as though it were real, and the world you experience from day to day was the fiction.

One of the major driving themes behind the novel is the seduction of sin. Like a female Ellroy, Abbott revels in the allure of the underground party scene, and the transformation of Marion from an innocent and surprised outsider to a willing participant in some truly unsettling affairs is compelling and so utterly natural that the reader finds themselves as surprised as Marion at the changes that occur within her life. Its a compelling theme and one that Abbott makes her own, asking where the line blurs between our fascination with the wild lifestyle and our actual participation within it.

Bury Me Deep is an incredible period piece and a stunning noir novel that examines a moment of history we all thought we knew from a different and fascinating perspective. Abbott's pitch perfect storytelling pulls the reader into a dark and unsettling world, and her clear love of her source material combined with deep research shines through, resulting in a novel that is immersive, addictive and darkly beautiful.

Russel D McLean for crimescenescotland, 08/08/09