My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Description: The most relentless, deeply disturbing thriller writer since Jeffery Deaver and Gillian Flynn
For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.
Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.
Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.
A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan’s debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Watson.
My thoughts: This is a fascinating psychological thriller, particularly in light of the recent events in Ohio.
The book opens with Jennifer and Sarah as children. They suffered a horrible trauma with Jennifer losing a parent. In actuality, Jennifer is truly untethered as her father is a useless alcoholic. So Jennifer and Sarah grow up together, under the same roof, taking great pains to stay safe. They come up with many, many rules and lists of things to never do to stay safe. Then in college they are still abducted and held in a cellar for years.
Now Sarah is 32 years old. She lives a solitary life in New York City in a building with a doorman. She orders take-out and he brings it to her. She works as an actuary, her office being her apartment. She stays safe. She repels all touch. She is highly traumatized and works with a therapist three times a week who comes to her apartment. One police officer has regular contact with her. The man who abducted her is coming up for parole. She needs to leave her apartment and provide a victim's statement.
The book toggles between now and then. The details of then are not clearly spelled out which is a relief for the reader, but enough information is provided that I would never hand this book to one of my children. The girls are held with two other girls in the cellar. Their captor is a professor at a university. He teaches psychology. He plays with not only the young woman's body in implements of torture, but also their minds. His goal seems to be to break them completely. He only takes them upstairs to torture them. There is also a box in the dungeon where he keeps Jennifer.
What we know is that Jennifer doesn't make it out of the cellar. What we know is that Sarah is very estranged from the other two victims by the end. What we also know is that each of the survivors has coped in a different way. I would honestly hate to write this book yet I did find it fascinating in the way that I find World War II fascinating. I am psychologically removed yet curious. Yet I never, ever want it to happen to one my own.
Sarah ends up with one of the other survivors as she uncovers interesting aspects to the case that has never closed. Jennifer's body was never found. The reader, via Sarah's research and flashbacks, gets a glimpse into the world of captivity and torture; the will to survive. What will a person do to survive? How much will she remember when it's all over? Are parts of it lost? How does she live with the guilt of helplessness while another suffers? Does she turn off her emotions? How does the Stockholm Syndrome play into this?
When beginning this book, think part Ohio case with torture implements and an unlikely captor and think part Elizabeth Smart. Although Elizabeth Smart was very young, she possessed a strong will to live and, due to being very young, was also highly suggestible to harm to her family if she ever chose to run. She had to prove that she was trustworthy before she could be taken out in the world. The story explores a number of different aspects of masochism, sadism, slavery, among other things. It was an interesting book.
Here's how to win it!
Fill out the form below.
It's that easy.