Tuesday, August 6, 2013
The Caribbean is a popular setting for many fiction writers. The beautiful weather and scenery, and colorful language and culture provide an exotic backdrop for many fictional plots. Only some authors, however, go beyond scratching the surface to delve deeper into the Caribbean that visitors sometimes do not see-the islands scarred by poverty and economic despair, and the skepticism and sometimes even resentment that is often harbored by local people towards tourists but that is carefully masked because of reliance on the money and jobs generated by those same tourists. Independent writer Michael Meyer is one of those authors. His story of James Cuffy, known as Cuff, and his indomitable girlfriend Rosie, is set against the backdrop of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Cuff is an American but he is not a tourist. He has come to St. Croix to start life over after false accusations from a student ends his idyllic career as a university professor. As a permanent resident and not merely a tourist, Cuff experiences St. Croix in ways in which the vacationing tourist cannot. He becomes accustomed to the natural beauty and the slow pace of the island, and learns to appreciate the local foods, customs,and ways of speaking. Through the struggles of his girlfriend Rosie, a bartender/server at a popular bar, readers understand the poverty that many islanders live with as they rely on low-paying jobs in the service and tourism industries to make a living. As Cuff tries to build a new life for himself, he is unwittingly falling prey to an unknown stalker whose all-seeing eyes mark his every move. As the mysterious assailant closes in on Cuff and Rosie, everyone that they come into contact with becomes susceptible to danger and they must race to find out the identity and motive of the killer before they become the final and ultimate targets. In addition to the careful detail and attention that the author uses when painting the background story for readers, an additional characteristic that I haven't seen in a book since my junior high days reading the Choose Your Own Adventure series makes this novel unique-Meyer includes an alternate ending. Meyer gives readers fair warning before choosing to read one or both of the endings. Ending A is the 'happy ending' while Ending B is the more sinister one. Ending B actually wrapped up details and loose ends more than Ending A however, answering several questions that would no doubt be in the back of readers minds as the plot unfolded.
Michael Meyer is a retired university professor and the author of another suspense thriller in addition to Deadly Eyes. He enjoys traveling and uses the locations that he has traveled to and worked in as the settings for his novels. For more information about him, check out the Author Interviews page on this blog.
Deadly Eyes combines two of my favorite things in a novel-a mystery and a Caribbean setting. The mystery at the center of the story is fast-paced and believable, although as previously stated, the second ending provides more answers to some plot details than the first one does. The author presents a realistic, unvarnished view of the Caribbean through the eyes of Cuff in a way which is neither idealistic nor patronizing. Cuff does not carry himself like a stereotypical obnoxious tourist, but has truly made the island his home, accepting the good and the bad that go along with it. He and Rosie are fully-fleshed, believable characters with flaws but who are overall good people, and their complex relationship is put to the test but ultimately stands strong as they fight for survival. The plot is unique and truly keeps the reader guessing until well towards the end as they try to piece together how the varied and colorful characters that Cuff interacts with are all related to the mysterious threat that he faces. The addition of an alternate ending, something done with modern movies on a regular basis, adds a nice twist to the novel as well. Michael Meyer establishes himself as a credible independent author with well-written prose, fully developed narratives and characters, and an engaging story line that pulls readers in from start to finish.