Author: Elliott Light
Publisher: Bancroft Press
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Throwaways is a great thriller about the world of the rich and powerful and the crass manner in which they indulge their basest desires, at the expense of helpless and unfortunate throwaways, youngster who have run away from home and are unwanted. A portion of the book relating to the crime is deeply distressing and may act as a trigger for sensitive persons.
Jake is a research volunteer with an organisation called ClearSeas. He is looking to photograph an invasive species called lionfish when the corpse of a teenage girl drifts into view. Against the backdrop of his own mother’s unsolved murder 23 years ago when he was only 4, Jake is troubled by the police’s dismissal of the case as an accident.
Detective Trent Murphy has good intentions, but he’s close to retirement and fears losing his pension in the quest to solve the mystery of the death of a throwaway, a child no one wants.
At first Jake wants to give the dead Jane Doe the dignity of an identification, but soon he gets caught up in the need to save Alicia, another runaway who might have been the friend of the dead girl and who has run away with a crucial bit of evidence: a laptop. Jake’s investigations point him towards Giles Horan, a filthy rich sexual pervert who may know a lot about the death of Megan Jones, the dead Jane Doe, and is after Alicia to silence her. The effort signs his death warrant for Horan is a vindictive man.
Meanwhile Andre Mitchell is working on behalf of his client who is also interested in calling a halt to the investigation. Andre tells Jake to get the laptop that Alicia stole and give it to him in exchange for protection from Giles but to forget about Megan’s death.
For Jake, caught between two antagonists, as well as for Ethy, his adoptive mother, and Tess, the girl hired to look after Ethy, and Detective Murphy, this can only end badly.
The antagonist is really evil, and we know early on that Jake is in a bad mess. They decide to take small steps but as Jake says, The problem with steps of any size is that it’s hard to know when you’ve gone one step too far.
The story is written in the past tense PoV of Jake Savage. One feels the pain of a young man who, as a child, found the dead body of the only parent he knew.
The descriptions are beautiful and give us a peek into the character and history of Jake. I found myself caring not only for him but also for Detective Trent, for Ethy, so oblique with her affection, for Tess, who is equally twisted in terms of past baggage, and even for Jake’s adoptive father, Maurice Savage, who is dead when the book begins.
The setting comes alive with the simplest of words. The sound of my heartbeat and the air escaping my regulator quickly replaced the chatter of human voices. Surrounded by water, the noise in my head subsided.
Despite knowing zilch about the geography of the place, I could picture it based on the details provided and I liked the picture my mind built up. I was impressed by the research around oceanography, the currents, tides etc. The details of the boats and the building and renovation feel intuitive and real.
The entire story takes place over 8 days, from Sunday, October 18, to Saturday, October 24. The author, in the person of Giles and Andre, kept pushing Jake into one predicament after another. It was well done, and it kept the pace going fast and smooth.
I’d first opted to read this book after reading the description and seeing the cover. I was touched by the incongruence of the cover image, the dead girl floating ethereally in the great blue with the lionfish surrounding her. Having suffered at the hands of humans while she was alive, it seems that she is now fodder for another invasive species below.
I loved the ending. It felt right, without seeming unbelievable or hurried or even forced. I only wish the author had given Jake, and us, some closure on the one mystery relating to his life. Perhaps a second book could throw more ‘light’ on Jake’s past.