Who doesn’t like a good mystery? years ago, that’s all I read. One day I realized I was moving away from the genre because I got tired of the shoot-’em-up finales where someone always wound up dead. But years ago, when this book was first released, I read it and loved it because it featured a blind protagonist with a job and everything! I decided recently to re-read and review it on this blog… have my views changed?
The Fault Tree
By: Louise Ure
For one woman, the dark is a dangerous place to be, and it’s the one place she cannot escape. Arizona auto mechanic Cadence Moran is no stranger to darkness. She was blinded in a horrific car accident eight years ago that also took the life of her three-year-old niece. She knows she was only partially to blame, but that doesn’t make the loss any easier to bear. She’s learned to get by, but there are still painful memories. When she is almost run down by a speeding car on the way home from work, Cadence at first thinks that she is the victim of road rage or a bad driver. But that’s not the case. In fact, she is the only witness to the murder of her elderly neighbor, and now the killer believes that she’s seen the getaway car. Louise Ure paints the glare of a Southwestern summer with the brush of a blind woman’s darkness in this novel of jeopardy and courage…. and the fine line between them – as Cadence fights to stop a killer she can’t see.
(Second) First Impressions
The first thing I noticed was that this book had no cheesy title about sight, darkness, or vision. Most books that have blind protagonists fall into cliched titles like this, I was thrilled that Louise Ure chose to forego this. Instead, she uses the “Fault Tree” to symbolize guilt, punishment (by oneself or others) and pennence. The second was the fact that Cadence is a tough-talking blind woman with an unconventional job as a car mechanic. The third was the fact that she truly hadn’t come to terms with her blindness.
Louise Ure paints verbal word pictures of the Arizona desert. It’s rugged, beautiful, harsh landscapes are described in ways that engage all of the senses, from the prickly cactus to the sounds of the night to the desert heat. Part of this, I am sure, was to get inside of Cadence’s head; partly, I am also sure, because this author loves this land.
Cadence and Discord
I’ve written above about how I love Cadence’s unconventional job. As a blind car mechanic, she doesn’t fall into a stereotypical job, and she’s a true part of the team at the shop. She uses her ears to listen for engine troubles, the other guys help her with visual work. Some might take offense to her nickname (“Stick”) and how incredulous the shop owner was when she applied for a job, but it’s a tough industry and it’s painted realisticly. Cadence travels independently, using her other senses to orient herself. She cooks well, labels things, and does other things that blind people all over the world do. her brother created a special cane for her because she doesn’t like the white ones (this was, again, written at a time before coloured or customized canes were more common), and he takes her flying in an airplane to celebrate her birthday every year (something that comes in handy later).
That being said, I have HUGE problems with Cadence. This book may have been written before the iPhone became mainstream, but computers were definitely in use, and Cadence chooses not to use them. She touches peoples’ faces (sometimes without permission) and doesn’t seem to want anyone else to know that she’s blind. This last point puts her in danger when a killer thinks that she’s seen him leave the scene of a crime.
The heightened-other-senses trope. Can it just die already? Cadence smells things, feels things, hears things, and relies on them too much. Sometimes she’s right and (thankfully) sometimes she realizes that they’re just excess information. But the police either dismiss her outright or they think she’s got super-powers.
About three quarters of the way through the book, we know who the murderer is, and we know why. The last quarter is devoted to the police interviewing neighbors and family, while Cadence finds herself in the crosshairs of a murderer. Cadence shows terrific problem-solving skills to get herself and her niece out of a jam, but some of it stretches credibility.
It’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon, reading this book. You need to stretch credibility pretty far, but the descriptions of the Arizona summer almost carry this book. I found that Cadence, in particular, frustrated me. She would’ve frustrated me as a headstrong sighted character, too, but as a blind one she just made me want to shake her for making things harder on herself.