I leaned against the glass. I looked at the clouds. It was dark outside the window. It was bright.
Those are the closing words of Mark William Chamberlain, the protagonist of Chad Taylor's "Departure Lounge". A tinge of noir seeps through those words and gives you an idea what the rest of the novel would have read. Terse, brooding, contradictory on the surface and quotable.
Mark, whose name you will not get to until almost after half of the story, is a thief and like most thieves, breaks into houses, rumbling through peoples' belongings. Unlike other thieves though, his hands also love to trace their lives. A man with scars and dark memories, he is looking for someone, a girl named Caroline May who went missing more than two decades ago without a clue. More than two decades after the incident, people seem to be still looking for a closure. Mark is just one of them. There is Harry Bishop the detective in charge of the search, there is Varina Smuich, Mark's old sweetheart and who knows how many others. Missing Girl seems to have etched her figure in these people's lives. As Harry explains to Mark:
That's what therapists call a symptom of euphoric recall. You're locked into a cycle of bringing her back in your mind. You're recreating the guilt of your loss.
Maybe it is just me, but the whole time I was reading Departure Lounge, the movie Mystic River kept playing in my mind. The central incident of a missing person and the dark atmosphere seemed to find parallels in this book too.
Chad Taylor's writing though terse has a beauty of its own. His style seems apt for a novel that dwells on "reflections on the laws of cause and effect", as the inner jacket puts it. Read this book if you want to read something stylish, different and something to be left wondering about.