The Never List – Koethi Zan

I’ve been a bad boy – I read this book almost two months (TWO MONTHS!) ago and I’m only now writing it up. So sorry.┬áHere we go:

I picked this book because it’s written by the wife of one of the presenters of one of my favourite podcasts – The Slate Culture Gabfest. She was on the show to talk about the book and it sounded intriguing. It was the kind of book I might read anyway and it was just about to come out so I thought I’d give it a go.

The Never List is the story of a woman who was abducted and kept in a cellar for years. However the story begins a decade after she was freed and her kidnapper was imprisoned. Now he’s up for parole and she wants to make sure he doesn’t get it. He’s also been writing to each of his victims and she believes this could be more than the apparent remorse it purports to be. This sparks the beginning of an investigation and an uncovering of a much bigger intrigue. It seems her abductor may have had connections to a crazy cult and may even be trying to direct events on the outside. Determined to stop him she sets off to find out more.

So this book functions on at least two timelines. We have the story of the investigation in the present but then we’re given flashbacks to what happened years before. So what is happening now and what had happened are both suspense parts of the novel.

I did enjoy this book. It was well written for the most part. I think the early sections especially work really well. Later on the plot takes over and it becomes a little implausible. Zan spends time telling us about how the hero became a virtual recluse, working from home and rarely venturing out, only opening her door to a very select few. She has to overcome this fear of the outside world in order to go on her investigative journey and whilst initially we see her struggling with this psychologically, it gets a little forgotten. She’s soon taking planes, renting cars, sleeping in hotels and generally running around the country as if that’s the most natural and easy thing in the world for her. Maybe not quite but it felt like her agoraphobic tendencies had been a bit forgotten.

The other thing that stood out to me was that there’s almost no description of what he did to his victims. It seems to have been physical torture rather than sexual abuse, although they are kept naked, but I’m not sure whether we’re meant to infer a combination of both. When I read Blacklands I said how I like the fact that the author respected the victims enough not to glamourize the perpetrator. I guess Zan may be doing the same her but given the genre it felt a little coy.

Finally there were some law enforcement issues that stretched credulity – an FBI officer who handed over sensitive information virtually on request.

So I guess I thought I was going to get a harrowing psychological examination of the impact of a crime, and it started out that way, but it eventually turned into more of a what-will-happen-and-how-will-they-catch-him thriller. A fairly decent one, plausibility issues aside, but a different book than what I was expecting. What I was expecting was the ending which I guessed so that was a shame.

7/10 – a pretty decent thriller.

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