|The Never List by Koethi Zan|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A journey of curiosity and closure turns into something rather more sinister. Don't be lulled by the slower pace once the 'event' has happened; my heart was thumping like a Walt Disney rabbit by the end! Not for anyone with teenage daughters, unless you dare.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: August 2013|
|Publisher: Harvill Secker|
|External links: Author's website|
Friends since childhood, Sarah and Jennifer had always admitted that they were so cautious it was daft. They'd even composed their own 'Never List'. As long as they stuck to it they'd be safe, and safe they were until that one night. The night after the college party they forgot 'Never get into the car'. They did. The next thing they're aware of is waking up in a dark cellar with two other girls; four of them altogether but only three of them will emerge. A decade later, Sarah is safe once again, living under a new name with all connections to the past wiped. But then the letter arrives; he's coming for her. It's not over after all.
American Koethi Zan was so inspired by the stories of girls surviving horrific, lengthy kidnap ordeals that she started writing a novel in her spare time. Due to her day job as an entertainment lawyer (yes, that is a career path) her 'spare time' was in the early hours of the morning and, along with, I should imagine, bags under her eyes, this was the result: an excellent novel that reads as anything but the debut that it is.
We readers are given the complete picture from the beginning. Coming in before the traumatic events, we live them with the two girls and right from that beginning we care. If any of you have daughters of college age or younger, the fear that Koethi cleverly engenders will be even deeper than for the rest of us so be warned. (By the way, this book deals with adult themes so perhaps not for sharing with anyone younger than those with whom you're prepared to discuss the means and connotations of forced intimacy.)
Fast forward 10 years and the three remaining girls are living separate, distanced lives while we follow Sarah's journey. Now living as 'Caroline' she has many hangovers from the past as we'd imagine and now story multi-layering kicks in.
This is one of the great joys of this book (if 'joy' is a fitting word under the circumstances). Koethi doesn't just provide us with a ripping thriller but there's more besides. Without loss of suspense or momentum some of the different forms of psychological damage are laid out before us along with the effects of such an event that commonly last the rest of the survivors' lives but not in learned psycho-babble. Sarah shares her life with us and therefore also her hang-ups, routines and worries. We also bear witness to a less than complimentary view of the US college system that, I suspect, isn't limited to that one country.
I won't talk too much about characters or plot to avoid spoilers but I will mention the pacing as 'The Never List' is a bit of a master class. The initial edge-of-the-seat feeling trails off once we're with Sarah/Caroline trying to discover how Jennifer finished up as she did. However, that feeling is replaced by intense inquisitiveness as we watch Caroline delving and upturning stones, making us turn the pages just as quickly. Don't relax too much though; the twists along the way are merely a prelude to one speeding freight train of a climax that left me catching my breath afterwards and betting on a film sometime soon.
The Never List is the best kind of entertainment, one that thrills while bringing new awareness of the world in which we live. I predict some earlier bedtimes for Koethi in the future as, no matter how good a lawyer she is, there seems to be a brighter future beckoning as a novelist and screenwriter.
If, once you've recovered from The Never List you'd like another heart-stopper, we also recommend Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Never List by Koethi Zan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Never List by Koethi Zan at Amazon.com.
The Never List by Koethi Zan is in the Top Ten Crime Novels 0f 2013.
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