Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #3)
Author: Tana French
Publication Date: 7/13/10
Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin's inner city, and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and Rosie Daly were all ready to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.
But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn't show. Frank took it for granted that she'd dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again.
Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie's suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not.
Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he's a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly-and he's willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.Review:
It might be a strange thing to say about a murder mystery/psychological thriller, but Faithful Place
is a very romantic book.
You see, Frank Mackey here investigates the disappearance of his first love who he for over 20 years thought dumped him and ran away to England. The whole narrative is laced with Frank's memories of Rosie and their teenage romance. I didn't quite expect it, but the story gave me goosebumps like only a very few teen novels about first love ever did. This is probably the main reason why Faithful Place
is my favorite of Tana French
's novels, at least for now.
The other reason is Frank. I love his voice, he is funny and sarcastic and can bullshit people into doing just about anything. He is also vulnerable and fragile and damaged. Who doesn't like reading about a man like that?
And then there is Frank's family. They are a group of sad cases and yet, strangely, they all are lovable and relatable in some strange way, even the worst of them.
Finally, my last "plus" - out of all 3 books in the series, Faithful Place
is the most "Irish." It gives a very honest and often harsh view of the working class living in Ireland. Not quite the picture you get after reading Fever
On the other hand, the mystery in this novel is probably the most straight-forward and obvious. I knew (well, guessed right) the perp probably by the middle.
It doesn't take away, however, from the fact that Faithful Place
is, if not a strong mystery, a very personal, very nostalgic, very tender story... 4/5 stars
The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad, #2)
Author: Tana French
Publication Date: 7/17/09
: Six months after the events of In the Woods
, Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to recover. She's transferred out of the murder squad and started a relationship with Detective Sam O'Neill, but she's too badly shaken to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl's ID says her name is Lexie Madison (the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective, and she looks exactly like Cassie.
With no leads, no suspects, and no clue to Lexie's real identity, Cassie's old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, spots the opportunity of a lifetime. They can say that the stab wound wasn't fatal and send Cassie undercover in her place to find out information that the police never would and to tempt the killer out of hiding. At first Cassie thinks the idea is crazy, but she is seduced by the prospect of working on a murder investigation again and by the idea of assuming the victim's identity as a graduate student with a cozy group of friends.
As she is drawn into Lexie's world, Cassie realizes that the girl's secrets run deeper than anyone imagined. Her friends are becoming suspicious, Sam has discovered a generations-old feud involving the old house the students live in, and Frank is starting to suspect that Cassie's growing emotional involvement could put the whole investigation at risk. Another gripping psychological thriller featuring the headstrong protagonist we've come to love, from an author who has proven that she can deliver.Review:
Impressive. Very impressive. I think now, after reading two of Tana French
's novels, I finally know what a good psychological thriller
is. It is something that goes beyond simple figuring out whodunit, something that delves into the minds investigators, victims and killers, something that focuses on exploring the motives and states of mind rather than logistics of the crimes.
It is the psychological
part of The Likeness
that won me over, because, let's face it, the premise of this book borders on implausible. Cassie Maddox is recruited to go undercover and impersonate a murder victim, who not only, coincidentally, looks exactly
like Cassie, but who also had stolen Cassie's last completely made-up undercover identity of Lexie Maddison! What are the odds of that? Plus, Cassie has to live in a house with 4 friends of the dead girl! Is it possible at all? To learn and assume someone's identity so well that even the closest friends don't see the difference?
Luckily, French knows her stuff. I totally bought the story in the end. It is staggering how much work it takes to prepare for undercover, how much psychological effort it takes to stay in character, and how hard it is not to completely succumb and merge into this character. I loved how the book portrayed the enormous difficulty of Cassie's assignment, I loved uncovering bit by bit the intricacies of Lexie's identity, I loved getting to know Lexie's friends and witnessing their strange bond.
What disappointed me in the beginning was that I had expected to read more about Rob Ryan from In the Woods
. No luck. The Likeness
is Cassie's and only Cassie's story. I got over it pretty quickly though. I am now looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the series - Faithful Place
- which, as far as I know, will focus on Frank, Cassie's undercover boss introduced in this novel. I kind of like the idea of a series of books which stays fresh because of the narrator changes.
The other complaint is that at times the story seemed too wordy - too much conversing, too much description, I just wanted it move along faster. But then, on the second thought, these elements most likely made Tana French
's books such enchanting, atmospheric, disturbing reads. So maybe this is not a complaint at all... 4/5 stars
In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)
Author: Tana French
Publication Date: 5/17/09
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.Review: In the Woods
reminded me a lot of Gillian Flynn
's novels (Sharp Objects
and Dark Places
). All these books are very dark mysteries/psychological thrillers and they all are as much about particular crimes the narrators investigate as they are about the narrators themselves, a disturbed bunch.
Rob Ryan, a detective on the Dublin Murder squad, and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to investigate a murder of a pre-teen girl. The thing is, the girl's body is found in the same woods where 20 years prior Rob's two best childhood friends disappeared. Rob undoubtedly witnessed their disappearance but has absolutely no recollection of what actually happened. Are these two crimes connected? Will investigating this new crime stir Rob's repressed memories? Is it a good idea at all for Rob to be involved in this case? In the Woods
is a very strong debut novel. Although a little too wordy in places, it is still a beautifully written, skillfully constructed mystery, with a multitude of red herrings. But my favorite part of this book was witnessing the effect of the investigation on the detectives working on it. It almost destroys all people involved. And our narrator, Rob, is a very special head case. His transformation is particularly striking.
I found the entire story very satisfying in terms of crime-solving. I was pleasantly surprised by how neatly French wrapped things up. Well, except that one huge piece of the puzzle that apparently infuriated a bunch of readers (not me though). That
bit of unfinished business will have me coming back for more Tana French
's novels.4/5 stars
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publication Date: 5/05/09
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books
I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.
The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.
As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.
Seriously, what goes on in Gillian Flynn
's head? She writes the freakiest stuff. Sharp Objects
was nasty enough, and Dark Places
is just as vile. Luckily for her, I (along with millions of people) like vile now and then.
Libby Day is a sole survivor of a horrendous massacre. Her mother and two sisters were brutally killed one winter night and, mostly thanks to Libby's testimony, the murders were attributed to Libby's older brother Ben, an alleged active Satan worshiper. Now, almost 25 years later, 32-year old Libby is out of money that had been donated to her by well-wishers over the years and must look for a new source of income. She settles on helping the Kill Club (a group of obsessed women who believe in Ben's innocence) to re-investigate the murders, for money of course. As Libby starts talking to various people involved in the original investigation at the Kill Club's request, her strong belief in Ben's guilt starts wavering...
I am fairly certain now that Gillian Flynn
's "schtick" is writing about VERY BAD
women. We are presented with an array of them in Dark Places
- they lie to get attention, they abuse, they blackmail, they mooch, they kill, they are weak and pathetic. It is, no doubt, a novel approach to women empowerment. If women are equal to men, they can be equally despicable, right? The men are no better - they are good-for-nothing losers mostly. What I am getting at is that you can hardly find any likable characters in this book, which for many readers is a must (not me though).
The story itself is gruesome. Prepare yourself for brutal killings, molestation, bullying, Satan worshiping, drugs and underage sex. Some parts are so tough to read, I had to put the book aside for awhile.
But underneath the filth, there is a great mystery - well-paced, suspenseful, full of red herrings, it keeps you guessing until the very last moment who the perpetrator is.
Just like Sharp Objects
, this book is absolutely not for everybody. But I thoroughly enjoyed this freaky thriller and will wait with anticipation for the release of Gillian Flynn
's next macabre mystery.4/5 stars
Author: Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
Publication Date: 9/6/77
A disturbed high-school student with authority problems kills one of his teachers and takes the rest of his class hostage. Over the course of one long, tense and unbearable hot afternoon, Charlie Decker explains what led him to this drastic sequence of events, while at the same time deconstructing the personalities of his classmates, forcing each one to justify his or her existence Review:
Holy hell, I had no clue what I was getting into with this one. I am a SK lover and King’s earlier Richard Bachman
books are some of my favorites. (readThe Long Walk
and The Running Man
if you haven’t) I happened upon this one rather randomly and couldn’t stop reading it. It is out of print, for reasons that will be absolutely clear by the time you are done reading the next paragraph. (SK and his publisher both agreed that it was for the better)
Written in 1977, Rage
starts of with a bang (pun intended), when Charlie Decker gets called to the office, mouths off, lights his locker on fire, then shoots two teachers. He holds his entire class hostage and the rest of the book is basically a psychotherapy session wherein he and his classmates tell stories of times when they “got it on.” (no sexual connotation) Are we all a little bit crazy? I have no clue.
The shared experience of the hostage situation was weird…but not unrealistic. It is amazing to see how people react in stressful situations. I mean, there is a body lying in the room and everyone is basically shooting the shit, but I could buy it and that is what is kind of scary. It’s that moment when everything is so serious and you’ve gone beyond the seriousness to some sort of relaxation. King writes, “When you’re five and you hurt, you make a big noise unto the world. At ten you whimper. But by the time you make fifteen you begin to eat the poisoned apples that grow on your own inner tree of pain…You bleed on the inside.” God, how sad is it that ?
When I saw the movie Se7en
, I remember thinking it was crazy to imagine a government keeping tabs on what people are checking out at the library. This is the type of book that would be on those hypothetical lists. (hypothetical? :-)) There are at least two instances of teenagers taking guns to school and holding their classmates hostage after reading this book. Do I think it is dangerous? No, not any moreso than all the other crap we are bombarded with daily. Impressionable teenagers will find their inspiration from somewhere else. And this book is more of a commentary on how parents affect their children for better or worse. The takeaway should be not to exhibit violence in school but to keep lines of communication open, not be a shitty parent, and to treat your classmates like human beings. (is this even possible in high school?)
Stephen King is the ultimate storyteller. I swear, on nearly every page, I’m either chuckling, underlining, or completely aghast. He is like that friend that we all have who can tell a story about something completely benign and have you rolling on the floor with laughter or make you cry just by recounting the plot of a sad movie. I’m sad that more people won’t get the chance to read this book. If you can stomach it, definitely find a copy. 4/5 stars
The Hellbound Heart
Author: Clive Barker
Publication Date: 1986
Publisher: HarperCollinsBlurb (Amazon):
Frank Cotton's insatiable appetite for the dark pleasures of pain led him to the puzzle of Lemarchand's box, and from there, to a death only a sick-minded soul could invent. But his brother's love-crazed wife, Julia, has discovered a way to bring Frank back—though the price will be bloody and terrible . . . and there will certainly be hell to pay. Review:
I'm assuming everyone in the world has seen the last Harry Potter movie? This isn’t a spoiler but there is this part in the movie where Voldemort is in some place that looks like a train station and he looks like a cross between some sort of fetus and a seahorse. When I saw it with my friends, we were all wondering what the frak we were looking at…in fact, it is pretty safe to say that I am still wondering a few months later. So I know Clive Barker wrote this novella decades before HP7p1 would come out but nevertheless, the movie impacted my reading enjoyment. Why? Because a man in The Hellbound Heart
is trying to become more flesh and bone (just like good ol’ Voldy) and needs blood to do so. As he becomes more substantial there is a period of time where all I could picture was some weird-looking seahorse thing flapping around in a corner. This is supposed to scare me? Mission NOT accomplished. Also, Barker went out of his way to mention one of the victims’ saggy, gray underwear before he dies. I was more disgusted by the saggy briefs than the murder.
I feel a bit foolish that I didn’t know the movie Hellraiser
was based on this novella until my book club buddy told me at our meeting. Because I read an e-version rather than the DTB, I didn’t have the benefit of all the creepy drawings. (Tip #1: Read the DTB. Actually there is only one tip.) I said to my friends, “Hey! That picture looks like that guy Pinhead from that horror movie!” Cue the cricket noises. Considering how short this work is (around 125 pages), Barker really packs a punch of a story. The brevity of the work really limits characterization and plot development. It felt like I was walking down a cafeteria line and just looking at all the things I could have but then never taking a bite of any of it. What kind of woman would just start killing people to feed blood to the demonish presence that may or may not be her brother-in-law with whom she had a rape-and-if-not-rape-certainly-rapey experience with before her wedding? Who the hell moves into a house where one room is totally dank and seemingly haunted? Who disposes of bodies and/or bags of bones by just tossing them in the spare room? Who finds a crazy-ass box in a haunted house and just starts playing around with it? (because that can only have GOOD results, right?) I just had to stop typing for a second to laugh at the memory of us rehashing the plot of this novella at book club. Here’s the lowdown:
Was it scary? No.
Am I an idiot for not realizing Hellraiser was based on this book? Yes.
Do I recommend it to horror lovers? Meh, not really.
Was it worth the read? Yes, for the weirdness.
Do I want to watch the movie now? Yes, if only to see if there is a seahorse fetus scene.
Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta, #1)
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Publication Date: 1/1/90
Blurb (GR): Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a human monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman. But this investigation will test Kay like no other, because it's being sabotaged from within and someone wants her dead.
In terms of the plot, I was entertained throughout. I wasn't sure whodunit until the big reveal and I suspected, as I'm supposed to, several side characters along the way. Cornwell definitely knows the building blocks to a successful medical crime thriller. It is easy to tell that she comes from the medical side of things and those were definitely my favorite parts of the book--the autopsies, discussions of injuries, etc. The least successful (read: most annoying) sections of the book for me were Kay Scarpetta's interactions with her precocious niece. Evidently her niece is the Doogie Howser of the computer hacking world but without his boyish charm. (and lab coat)
The book is entertaining but it didn't do much for me overall. I will keep going in this series though because my dear friend Maja is in love with it and I think it will get better as I get out of the dated technology era. I bet I would really enjoy this if I read it in twenty years!
At this point, I'm just going to rehash a few plot points for people who may have forgotten. As I keep following series for years (I'm on number thirtysomething with Eve Dallas!), I realize how much I forget about early books. This will serve as a reminder to me (and you?) about the events of book one in this series. Don't read on if you don't want to absolutely spoil the book!
Several women are murdered by someone with a glittery substance on their hands. The perpetrator comes in through open windows. Simultaneously, Kay is near-raped by her psuedo-boyfriend, who'd done something similar to the local newswoman. (whose sister ends up being the last victim) Though she and Marino suspect a few other people first, Kay figures out that the link between all the women is that they'd all called 911 weeks/months before their murder for minor things. The 911 operator is the killer. The glittery substance was borax-based cleanser at his work that he used all the time because he had some random syndrome that made him smell like maple syrup all the time. (seriously) At the end, Kay's niece leaves her window open and the rapist gets in and is going to kill Kay but Marino arrives and shoots him before he can.
I loved the 1990s. There was great television, Pogs, scrunchies, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were amazing at hockey. (obviously Jaromir Jagr's mullet contributed a significant amount to this last part) And although I totally loved playing Seventh Guest, Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, and the like on our old Macs, I'm happy with the advancements in technology. Okay, moving on, I also love crime novels. When they are set in ye oldey times, I get caught up in the story, seeing how Sherlock could deduce his way to victory. Or when they are set in the future, I like seeing Eve Dallas use new-fangled technology to find her man. (Or woman. Or robot!) Even when books are set in current times, or in the past few years, it's great! BUT Postmortem lies in the bottom of awkward valley for me at the moment. I read over and over and over about how "maybe" someone should change their words-only password on a networked computer and how "secure" the network was. Every time I read about dialing in from home to a network that was left in answer mode, I could hear the dial up noise in my head...and how grating is that? (Side note: do kids today even know what a dial-up noise is? I feel old.) I'm sure, nay, positive that I will enjoy the Scarpetta books further down the line as technology catches up but I was frustrated throughout this novel. There was many a dramatic eye roll and "Oh, brother" muttered. The printer paper still had those holey side parts and DNA evidence was new. They spend at least half of the book talking about some glittery substance and I couldn't figure out why they didn't just test it to figure out what it was. (Did I miss something here? Why couldn't they do chemical testing?)
The Girl Next Door
Author: Jack Ketchum
Publisher: Dorchester Books, Leisure Books
Blurb (GR): A teenage girl is held captive and brutally tortured by neighborhood children. Based on a true story, this shocking novel reveals the depravity of which we are all capable.
This is a fictional story based on an actual 1965 killing of a teenage girl in Indiana. The girl, Sylvia Likens
and her sister Jenny were put into the care of a single mother by her carnie parents. The woman, Gertrude Baniszewski, several of her children, and some neighborhood children tortured and eventually murdered Sylvia. She was forced to endure unbelievable atrocities like scalding baths, the carving of words into her body with needles, repeated beatings, eating feces, and worse. Ketchum describes, in graphic detail, what those events might’ve been like, from the point of view of the next door neighbor boy. Teenage Davy lives on a dead-end street and has been hanging out with the same neighborhood kids for his entire childhood. One day, while catching crayfish, he meets Meg, who has just moved with her sister into Davy’s next door neighbor’s home. Meg and Susan’s parents were killed in an auto accident and the only relative to take them in is Ruth, a single mother of three boys. There’s not too much need to go into the plot from here because you all know where it is going. I knew where it was going as well, but that didn’t make it any easier to read.
A few weeks ago, I saw a story on the news about two 48-year old twins in Houston who lived with their mother’s decomposing body after she passed away. I watched in horror as the newscasters described how the grown men frankly told police officers that she had tripped and fell while they were watching the BCS championship and then they just left her there, conscious and able to speak, until she passed a few days later. And the reason that they gave for not calling anyone after her death? Inability to pay for burial expenses. (a judge has not ruled on their mental ability to stand trial as of 5/5/11) What made me think of this story in relation to the book was my wondering about how the hell anyone could ever passively watch someone tortured or slowly dying. Davy knows that Meg is being tortured and I was fascinated with his reasoning about why everything was happening and whether he should do anything about it. Ruth and other perpetrators of such atrocities just be mentally unstable...at least I hope that is the case. But there were/are just so many other people involved in crimes like this--are they all mentally unwell? I’d love to be able to say that a crime as atrocious as this could never happen nowadays but it just did. Angela McAnulty starved, abused, tortured, and eventually killed her own daughter in Eugene, Oregon just last year. There were other people living in the house at the time. HOW? How can these people not report what is going on?
In terms of the book, loosely basing a story on real life events really gives an author an out. I want to say that x,y, and z didn’t seem realistic or probably didn’t/couldn’t happen but I haven’t gone through the notes on the trials so maybe they actually did. I always get a horrible feeling in my stomach when characters tell the police about something and then the police either (1)don’t take them seriously; (2) brush it off; or (3) don’t trust a child and then turn them back over to their abuser. I can’t pretend to know how much work police men and women have but it is horrible to hear of events like this happening and to know that they were absolutely preventable if someone had intervened.
This is a hard book to stomach. I recommend it to no one and everyone at the same time. No one will “enjoy” reading it. A lot of people probably won’t make it through the whole book. It is filled with sick, sick things. But sick things that happened and are still happening
, which makes it all the more painful to read. There is a special place in hell for people that torture children.
Let's Go Play at the Adams'
Author: Mendal Johnson
Publication Date: 12/1/84
Publisher: Golden Apple
Blurb (GR): Surely, it was only a game. In the orderly, pleasant world Barbara inhabited, nice children -- and they were nice children -- didn't hold an adult captive.
But what Barbara didn't count on was the heady effect their new-found freedom would have on the children. Their wealthy parents were away in Europe, and in this rural area of Maryland, the next house was easily a quarter of a mile away. The power of adults was in their hands, and they were tempted by it. They tasted it and toyed with it -- their only aim was to test its limits. Each child was consumed by his own individual lust and caught up with the others in sadistic manipulation and passion, until finally, step by step, their grim game strips away the layers of childishness to reveal the vicious psyche, conceived in evil and educated in society's sophisticated violence, that lies always within civilized men.
More than a terrifying horror story, Let's Go Play At The Adams' is a compelling psychological exercise of brooding insights and deadly implications
I like to be shocked. I like that feeling when I’m reading a book and I think to myself, “there’s no way the author is going to go there…oh, my gosh…he’s going there, OH MY GOSH, WE’RE THERE, so far past acceptability.” That’s why I’m trying to make way through a list of books that readers have told me are “the most disturbing book they’ve ever read.” Let’s Go Play At The Adams’ by Mendal Johnson made nearly every list I’ve looked at so it was an obvious choice for me. Comparisons are made between this work of fictional horror and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, which has a very similar plot structure but is based on a true crime. Ketchum’s novel horrified me in so many ways—it was graphic and it felt over-the-top, but I just couldn’t stop reading it. Let’s Go Play felt stronger in terms of writing but I’m just going to say it: I was rather bored. This is the part of the review where most of you are going to think I’m a lunatic, but I guess I was expecting there to be as much graphic torture in this one as there was in The Girl Next Door, and there absolutely is not.
Whereas Ketchum’s novel focuses on what it could be like for a bystander to see and ultimately participate in such horrific behavior, Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ puts more emphasis on how both the perpetrators and the victim would feel in a captivity and torture situation. The narration remains in third-person throughout but regularly shifts focus from the captors to the captive. In terms of plot, it is very basic. A brother and sister (very Brady-Bunchily named Bobby and Cindy) are left in the care of a babysitter, Barbara, while their parents are on vacation abroad. Very early on in the vacation, Bobby, Cindy, and three neighborhood kids drug Barbara and then proceed to keep her captive in the house. After about 20 pages of this, that’s when I started to get bored. I was mentally prepared for the worst. I was ready for some horror movie gore and…nothing. Basically, this entire book reads like the kids all wondering how they could do something like this, patting themselves on the back for succeeding at their “game,” and Barbara wondering how these “good kids” could do this to her and how she could be so idiotic as to let it happen.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a few sections that many readers might find hard to read—there is a sexual abuse scene that was rough and a section near the ending as well, but overall, I spent more time learning about the mundane trials of having a captive than I did being horrified. Oh, they tied up her ankles instead of her thighs this time. Oh, now she’s on a chair instead of the bed. So now they are taking her to the bathroom and giving her a bath. I understand the reasoning for this deliberate tactic of the author—what started out as a game was no longer fun. Part of the allure of staying up late and eating whatever you want as a child is seeing if you can get away with it. When there is no one there to keep it hidden from, it becomes dull. But imagine if you went to see a horror movie when someone got kidnapped and then most of the movie was spent feeding the captive chicken sandwiches and Coke, switching up the ropes, and the captor wondering if he would get away with it. Who would pay to watch that kind of horror movie?
While I know crimes like this actually do occur, I felt like the nonchalance of the children was not very believable. Ahh, might as well just do this or that. They seemed to have no regard for or understanding of human life. I know that the value of a life is something foreign to many young children but these “children” were more early to mid-teens. One of them was nearly 17—and the babysitter was only 20. I suppose I was just surprised because the children in The Girl Next Door were heavily influenced by an absolutely unfit mother or other family situations that might make them more likely to keep things hidden or to partake in abuse. Here, no one’s family life is really mentioned. All the children seem to come from regular families and live in large houses on the water. Maybe it is more disturbing when there seems to be no backstory. I mean, I’ve seen enough of those news reports where flabbergasted neighbors go on about how that nice man could never have done something so horrific. Yeah, right.
So, in sum, if you’re thinking of taking a trip down horrific lane, I’d start with this one before reading The Girl Next Door. If you can’t make it through this, there is no way in hell you could make it through that.