When Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha is murdered on her birthday in College Park, Maryland, her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year old body, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, instead she focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder. Eventually, her consciousness goes into a dormant state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.
Fast-forward twenty-two years. Wyatt is a well-adjusted young man with an affinity towards the Middle East and a fear of heights. While working on his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, Wyatt learns about Siwar’s death, which occurred twenty-five years ago. For reasons he can’t explain, he grows obsessed with Siwar and spends months investigating her death, which police at the time erroneously ruled as suicide. His investigation forces him to open a door he has kept shut all his life, a spiritual connection to an unknown entity that he frequently refused to acknowledge. His leads take him to Amman, Jordan where after talking to her friends and family members and through his special connection with the deceased, he discovers a clue that unravels the mystery of her death. Will Siwar get justice after all?
The underlying premise of the novel–that Siwar’s consciousness could become a part of Wyatt in some way–was intriguing to me. I wasn’t sure how or if it would work going in, but I have to say that I thought it was masterfully done.
This didn’t feel like a supernatural novel that was also a mystery. It was a mystery that had undertones of something supernatural. It would have been easy for this merging of consciousnesses to become very gimmicky, but the writing shows great restraint. The story and figuring out the mystery is the main focus and it worked very well.
I really enjoyed the alternating points of view the story is told from and Siwar is an intelligent, outspoken protagonist, but also young and vulnerable. She made me feel really invested in figuring out who killed her.
I was a little more ambivalent about Wyatt. I wanted him to succeed for Siwar, but he’s not really a great guy I would be rooting for otherwise. He’s singleminded in his pursuit to find out who killed Siwar, but he doesn’t treat his girlfriend very well and he doesn’t seem to really like anyone he comes across.
There was a lot of misdirection (Siwar tells you early on that she is an unreliable narrator, and I enjoyed that bit of self aware poking fun), so the end is not predictable, but I did feel like after all the buildup, the reveal was a little rushed.
I would recommend this novel to all of y’all who enjoy slow burning thrillers. It’s a quick read at 280 pages, but the pacing is even and enjoyable.
I received an ARC of They Called Me Wyatt from Natasha Tynes in exchange for an honest review. Expected date of publication is June 11, 2019.