Eyes of Sleeping Children
‘Eyes of the Sleeping Children’ is the bold new debut from D. A. Butcher, and is a psychological thriller set in 1930’s depression era Kansas at the height of a massive dust storm called The Beast of Black Sunday.
The story centres around Louis Lockhart and his family, beginning on the night of the storm hitting the family farm. After taking safety in the cellar, the family retire to bed. However, a shocking tragedy hits Louis and his family when he discovers that his son is missing. There is no sign of forced entry and no evidence that he has left the house.
As Louis frantically searches for the missing child, his wife’s fragile mental health fractures and she lays the blame of the disappearance on a figure of nightmares, The Sandman
However, Louis looks for an explanation that is based on reality. As he uncovers the truth, it will lead him on a journey, one that will take him to the past and to secrets long forgotten.
D. A. Butcher’s debut is an interesting one. Part locked room mystery, part psychological thriller and part depression era family drama. I don’t want to discuss the plot too much as part of the experience is to uncover the different elements of the plot as they unfold. However, the plot is tightly woven with different elements bringing themselves together as the story reaches its climactic conclusion.
The book shows Butcher’s skill at researching the events that the novel takes place in. This is a particularly important feature in this type of book as if there are any discrepancies it could take the readers focus away from the story that Butcher is telling. I mean this is a setting that not everybody is going to be familiar with, and I know one of the first things I did was immediately go searching for information.
The backdrop of the storm is particularly effective as it adds to the cloying and claustrophobic atmosphere to the story. Evoking a sense of disquiet and an almost dreamlike quality to the narrative
The main character of the story Is Louis Lockhart and the main perspective is recounted through his eyes. He is quite an introspective character and we get a good grasp on his motivations and perspectives. There are several other characters, Louis’s wife who experiences a serious bout of depression throughout the first part of the book, and his brother Buck.
The book is essentially divided into two parts, the immediate aftermath of the disappearance and the search for Louis’s son and the effects that the disappearance has on the family as a whole as hope dwindles.
I found that, for me, when the second part of the story begins, it had some effect on the impetus of the story. As whilst we have the initial feverish pace of the first part of the book, the second part’s description of the slow deterioration of Louis’s mental health upset the equilibrium a little. However, it picks up pace again towards the final third of the book. There is a particularly disturbing scene which highlights Louis’s grasp on his sense of self which will definitely stay with me for quite a while, even though I would rather forget it.
All in all, this was a solid debut from a new voice, and it will be interesting to see what D. A Butcher does next