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Book Author: Matthew Dicks

SOMETHING MISSING by Matthew Dicks: Book Review

The clever graphic on the cover of  Something Missing lets you know at once that this is an offbeat mystery; the graphic spells the second word as Mis ing.

Martin Railsback, Jr. is an unusual type of career criminal. He’s a thief who has OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, while also having perhaps a place on the Asperger’s scale.  He enters houses, first making certain the homeowners are absent, and steals items he thinks they won’t miss–canned foods, tubes of toothpaste, towels, etc.

After he’s made numerous trips, he may begin to take items of more value, perhaps some silver tableware or diamond earrings. He uses a digital camera to make sure he leaves a room exactly as he found it, has a timer on his watch to make sure he doesn’t stay too long in the house, and probably knows more about the homeowners and their habits than they do about themselves.

He learns the latter through the items we all scatter around our homes–computers left on with no password needed, bank passbooks and passports in dresser drawers, charge card bills on desks, and extra keys in those hiding places that are all too obvious–under the doormat, inside the flower pot, inside the toilet tank, etc.  And what about all the party invitations on the refrigerator–they’re like a newspaper announcement telling the world when we’ll be away from home.

Martin comes prepared for all emergencies, locating two or three emergency exits in each house; he wears a hairnet and latex gloves to make sure he leaves no DNA traces behind.

These precautions almost always work…if they were foolproof, there’d be no book.

This book isn’t a true mystery, I must confess, because you know from the outset who’s committing the crimes.  You’re privy to Martin’s thoughts, although I did wish the author had explained Martin’s motive a bit more.  Why does he steal such inexpensive items?  If he’s going to break into someone’s house, why not go for the big stuff at once without the need to come back and put himself at risk?  There’s a deep psychological reason somewhere, but I wasn’t able to find it.

However, to make up for that lack, it’s wonderful to follow Martin’s thinking and methodology.  He is so socially awkward that he’s unable, at the beginning of the novel, to say more than hello without practicing his side of the conversation beforehand.  It’s painful to see him try to interact in any social setting.  He wants to be comfortable with others but doesn’t know how.  That’s the Asperger’s aspect of him.

But as the story progresses, so does Martin.  He does things and takes risks that would have seemed impossible to him at the outset of the novel, and by doing so he becomes a more fully-formed person.  He has our sympathy from the outset, even though he’s committing illegal acts, but he has our admiration at the end.

Twice during the course of the novel Martin changes his routine to benefit his “clients,” as he refers to them, putting himself in danger of discovery.  But by changing the routine that he has perfected to keep himself safe and undiscovered, he also changes into a mature man, more capable of interacting with others and finding a happier place for himself in the world.  It’s a novel of discovery, and it’s wonderful to go along with Martin for the ride.  I’m hoping that Matthew Dicks will invite us along for another ride with Martin Railsback, Jr. soon.

Matthew Dicks needs to have his own web page.  If you’re reading this, Mr. Dicks, why not contact–the best in the web design business.