Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Book Review: THE NEVER LIST by Koethi Zan

The Never List

Title: The Never List
Author: Koethi Zan
Expected Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Read: June 16 - 17, 2013

Synopsis (Goodreads):

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:

After the death of her mother in a car crash, in which teenager Jennifer and her friend Sarah were seriously injured, the two girls devise a list of “never-to-do” things to avoid ever getting hurt again. They called it the “never list”. But despite their efforts, both girls fell victim to sadistical killer Jack Derber, who abducted them on a night out from college and kept them chained up in the cellar of his farmhouse for three years together with two other girls, subjecting them to unspeakable pain and horror. Only three of the girls managed to escape – Jennifer never made it.

Now an adult still haunted by the memories, Sarah lives under an alias and rarely leaves her house. When contacted by the FBI agent who had been in charge of her case, Sarah is horrified to learn that Jack Derber is about to be released on parole - unless Jennifer’s body is found he cannot be convicted of a murder charge. Determined to bring justice to her friend, Sarah sets out to track down information which would help her locate Sarah’s body. To do so she must make contact with the other girls who had been in the cellar – and put herself in all the dangers she has vowed never to subject herself to with her never-list. Worst of all, she must try to understand the sadistical mind of her tormentor and revisit dark places she has long locked away in her mind.

I was very excited when I received a preview copy of Koehti Zan’s debut novel, as it promised a lot of psychological suspense, a genre I enjoy. However, after finishing the novel I feel quite divided about it, and will rate it here on reading pleasure alone. I don’t consider myself overly squeamish (after all, I love writers like Gillian Flynn, Karin Slaughter and S. J. Bolton), but the sadistical elements in the storyline crossed the line for me several times to an extent where I nearly gave up on the book.

Starting off as a taut psychological thriller, I was intrigued by Sarah and her efforts to overcome her terrible memories and bring justice to her friend. I cannot begin to imagine the lasting damage her ordeal would have left on her psyche, and her everyday struggles rang true to me. And although Sarah’s investigations seemed to stretch the boundaries of credibility a bit far at times, considering that only a week ago she had been unable to leave her house, I could accept her efforts as “courage under fire” in a desperate bid to keep Jack Gerber in jail.

The storyline itself abruptly changed direction a few times, throwing in plot elements which needed more development to make the novel flow smoothly. Some characters also needed fleshing out and acted quite bizarrely at times to be believable, especially since their intentions earlier in the novel were totally opposite to their later actions. I did like the final revelation of the plot, which was very clever and which I certainly didn’t see coming.

What totally spoiled the book for me however were the descriptions of sadomasochistic practices which dominated parts of the book and seemed unnecessarily lurid to me. There is a fine line for me which defines the degree of involvement I want to have with the sick thoughts of a depraved killer whilst reading a novel, and parts of the storyline went a bit too far for me (there was a scene with Sarah in the box which made me feel like having a shower).  I personally believe that a well-crafted suspense story does not hinge on overly graphic descriptions of violence, but can create terror by addressing more subtle areas of the human psyche – S. J. Bolton being a good example of being able to write mysteries which make your spine tingle and get your heart rate up without feeling in need of a hot shower and soapy scrub afterwards. Whilst The Never List had elements of good suspense it did not fully deliver for me and I feel it needed a bit of tweaking to make it work.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free preview copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own.

No comments:

Post a Comment