- Author: Matthew Iden
- Performed by Luke Daniels
- Released May 2015 by Brilliance Audio
- Category: Crime/Thriller/Suspense
No one likes Jack. His wife is gone and his neighbors avoid him. He’s a recluse and a creep, and that’s just the way he wants it; he can ignore what they say behind his back if they leave him to his work and his daily walks. But when ten-year-old Emma goes missing in the nearby woods, the eyes of his neighbors turn toward him, their fear and accusations escalating as the days go by. Jack proclaims his innocence, but what the neighbors–and the reader–find out is the last thing anyone would suspect.
Jack Tate is living a solitary and reclusive life ever since his wife left him and works from home as a freelance illustrator. Living as he does in a family orientated neighbourhood Jack realises people regard him as odd and maybe slightly creepy. He enjoys solitary walks in the nearby wooded park and working from home and to his own schedule, adds to his self-imposed isolation.
When eleven year old Emma, the daughter of Jack’s neighbours, goes missing Jack gives his assistance grudgingly when a search is initiated by the local residents. The police become involved and suspicion points in Jack’s direction when Emma’s bike and an upsetting chalk drawing are found near where Jack’s walk took him that day.
I suppose if I’d been a more aware person, or a parent, or even generally suspicious minded, I would’ve noticed the chalk marks. They would’ve leapt off the pavement, pulsing and alive with meaning. My mind, the subconscious part of it, would’ve understood the implications and rung the appropriate alarm bells and sounded the necessary warnings.
Written in the first person from Jack’s point of view, this intriguing and disturbing short story really gets into the mind of the protagonist, showing his idiosyncratic characteristics. And also how outward appearances can sometimes be deceptive and misconstrued. Jack is seen as a misfit, not belonging in the neighbourhood and the residents’ instinctive reaction to target and label Jack because he’s someone they consider different or ‘strange.’ Jack’s situation made me think how often people are taken at face value, often hurt physically and/or emotionally, because of preconceived notions.
Jack is a well defined character almost immediately and being privy to his thought process as he tries to convince the police and his neighbours of his innocence is very believable, as is his anger and frustration with the misconceptions.
Skilfully written with a well-developed storyline and a mixture of intrigue and suspense. I was so curious to see where this was going. There’s a really good twist at the end which made me re-evaluate my thoughts. I honestly didn’t see that coming. Luke Daniels brings Jack Tate to life with all the relevant emotions and, as with all his performances, he gets the most out of the story.
About the author
An eclectic resume–he’s held jobs with the US Postal Service, international non-profit groups, a short stint with the Forest Service in Sitka, Alaska and time with the globe-spanning Semester at Sea program–has given him inspiration for short stories and novel ideas, while trips to Iceland, Patagonia, and Antarctica haven’t hurt in the creative juices department, either. A post-graduate education in English Literature wasn’t necessary, but it helped define what he didn’t want to do with his life and let him read a great deal of good books.
Matthew lives in Alexandria, Virginia.