Hi everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Marc Behm’s novel The Eye of the Beholder. The narrator is a private investigator, known simply as ‘The Eye’. His latest task is to follow the son of a wealthy couple who has been visiting a mysterious woman. The Eye sets off on his mission and follows the young lovers around town. However, The Eye is drawn to the woman and begins to follow her wherever she goes, crossing the US and leaving murder and mayhem in their wake.
The characterisation of The Eye was the highlight for me. He was very complex and morally ambiguous, which I really liked. You were never sure how you felt about him. There are moments, especially when The Eye reflects on his daughter, which are quite touching, and Behm does an excellent job of humanising him in these scenes. Without those moments, he would have been quite a flat character, and his bizarre actions throughout the novel would have just been inexplicable.
The woman that he follows also has a lot of depth. At first she is sort of a blank canvas, then gradually you find out more about her past. Those sections I really enjoyed as you get a glimpse into what causes her to behave the way she does. But at the end you still don’t know what you thought of her. With The Eye as a highly unreliable narrator, you were never sure if he was projecting his own thoughts on to her, or if she was like how he described her. While these two characters are given a bit of the backstory, the rest of the characters are brushed aside. Normally that would detract from my enjoyment of the novel. However it doesn’t here. It reflects the mentality of The Eye, who has grown more and more obsessed by this woman, that everything else fades into the background. I though Behm handled this really well.
However, I did have a couple of issues. There were a couple of scenes which I felt were superfluous. Looking back, they didn’t really add anything to the plot and if they had been cut I wouldn’t have missed them. As a result I think the novel does drag in these parts, as you are waiting to get to a more interesting episode. The second issue I have is that at times I felt Behm was trying to cram too much stuff into one novel. There are all these murders and alias and intrigue that at points it became totally outlandish. I felt myself being pulled out of the story because of how ridiculous it was.
You do have to suspend your disbelief with The Eye of the Beholder, but once you do it is actually a fun, pulpy romp. There is plenty of action and mystery to keep you on your toes, and you never knew what was going to happen next. The ending I found really touching and bittersweet, and it felt like the perfect send-off for these characters. While I do have a couple of criticisms, I really enjoyed The Eye of the Beholder and would check out Behm’s other novel.
The Eye of the Beholder is published by Arcadia Books and you can find more information here.