Susie Hara’s ‘Finder of Lost Objects’
Review Written By: Paula Tupper
Publication date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Ithuriel’s Spear, San Francisco
Also available in e-edition
There are so many tired variations on the mystery novel, that it is a welcome surprise to find something fresh and just a little different that still retains the sharp edges and fast pacing of a good Who-done-it. Susie Hara has done just that, making her debut novel “Finder of Lost Objects’ a welcome addition to the genre, though it is more accurately a Where-is-it. Herprotagonist, Sadie Garcia Miller, is not a detective, nor is she a private investigator. She does not solve mysteries or find missing people. She finds lost objects for a living, working out of a bare bones office in San Francisco’s Mission District. One might think this is not the most lucrative way to make a living, but Sadie gets by, with an almost uncanny way of finding her next client just as the last fee is exhausted. The serendipity is one of the subtle touches of mysticism and Fate that Hara scatters throughout her story. Sadie finds objects by a combination of analysis, common sense, and the feelings she gets when she centers her thoughts and waits for answers to rise up in her quiet mind. It is well done, and not so insistent nor as obvious as to be off-putting if you are not a person with a metaphysical bent. There are other little touches in the thoughts or even prayers of other characters, but never in a manner that would push the story out of a secular and natural world. Instead it blends nicely with the general descriptive feel of Hara’s writing, bringing together the personality of her setting. She understands the blend of yogi, hipster, humanist, Esalen trainee, Silicon Valley techno nerd, and Hispanic Catholic that forms the California subculture especially in San Francisco.
Her plot is intriguing, though there are areas that ramble and that come to unsatisfactory resolutions. Sadie is hired to find a missing book, given to a young executive and inscribed to her by her now deceased foster mother, and stolen by her cousin when she and he last met. Sadie goes on a search that takes her from Fresno to West Hollywood, with a side trip to the world of telenovelas, as she discovers that nothing is as it seemed. Along the way she interacts with a varied cast of characters, including her dentist cousin who is in the midst of an extramarital affair,Little Theatre operators, cross-dressers, and an LA police officer,while hooking up romantically with a hot Pilates instructor (female)and a community activist lover from her past (male).
Hara’s strong points include her vivid characters, with her ability to immediately spark a connection with the reader so that you are compelled to find out what happens next, and her great eye for the details that make a place memorable. You really believe Hara knows the places she describes, and she captures what is unique about the dusty farming towns and the baked pavement of Hollywood’s dodgey edges. The back stories of Sadie and her family and friends are strongly outlined, and clearly set up a continuing thread to be followed in subsequent books. The mystery surrounding Sadie’s father is almost more compelling than the search for the missing book.
There were several areas that I found lacking, or in need of some judicial editing. Primarily, Hara chose to use a pastiche of the missing book, writing a YA novel within the story of the mystery. Unfortunately, the pastiche reads like a very close relative of Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and not a very good one. The stops and starts in the main narrative as Sadie reads portions
of ‘The Journey’ slow down the forward progression of the story and don’t really add anything to the plot or the depth of the novel. The motivation behind the client’s somewhat erratic behavior is never completely clear, and two of the suspects’ actions border on bizarre without any believable explanation. The segue into her cousin’s affair seems unnecessary and without a point.
Notwithstanding these areas of concern, I found the book a great read, well-paced and well-written. I would happily recommend it to someone looking for some fun reading on a rainy day, or sunning by the pool. I hope I am right in thinking Hara is hoping to continue as a series, because I would like to read more about the half Mexican, half Jewish, mildly psychic, bisexual daughter of a Chavez era labor agitator, and her talent for finding things that are lost.
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