One of my favorite authors has written a new book and of course I had to read it right away. Helen Pryke moved genres once more and now entered the realm of mystery and thriller. A thrilling read it was, indeed, presented in her usual beautiful and capturing style. It never takes me long to read what she writes and it was the same with this book. Two girls were kidnapped from different families and the police could never find them again. Were the kidnappings related? Are the girls still alive? If so, where are they?
Each of the girls has siblings and they cannot let the matter rest. They approach a journalist to help them find their sisters, who – as we learn – were indeed both kidnapped by the same man, and this man is rapidly losing his grip on sanity.
The story has all the ingredients you need for a good read: Well formed characters, emotional turmoil, twists and turns and insights into a deranged mind.
And yet … (Spoiler alert for the following paragraphs!)
The story left me strangely untouched. I should have ached with the abducted girls. I should have shuddered at the cruel madness of the kidnapper. I should have cheered the investigators on – but I didn’t. Despite all the right ingredients, the story brushed by me, an uninvolved bystander.
I would have expected more depth – especially from Helen, who I know is completely capable of making me shiver and cry and scream while reading her books. But this story feels as if she shied away from diving in all the way. It’s all there – but it’s all on the surface.
Take Jane, for example, one of the abducted girls. She had trouble with her family and readily accepted the kidnapper’s lies that her family didn’t want her anymore. Too readily for my taste. Where was her pain? Where was her struggle to accept that which she had hoped would not be true? And later, when she sees through the lies, where is her struggle in the opposite direction? Where is her shock at finding out the truth? She seems to be taking it all in her stride.
And then there’s Charlotte, the other girl. She misses her family. She is sad and scared beyond belief. But her deranged kidnapper wants her to be happy and smiling. I would have expected more interaction between them, showing me how they trigger each other, how each misunderstanding results in another beating. It’s the same with the relationship between the girls, which undergoes various changes. It’s all hinted at, and I can guess what happened – but I don’t want to guess. I want to be shown. I want to read it all and be shaken deep inside, moved and touched.
What did move me in the end was the stupidity of the journalist. I’ve come across this theme a few times before: private investigator finds all the details to solve the case and then rushes into danger without alerting the police. In this case it was a journalist and either she was totally delusional from fatigue or plain stupid, which would have been out of character, as she was presented as a pretty smart person. So why does she go into the kidnapper’s house with two teenagers in tow, knowing the kidnapper would freak out in the near future and more than likely set everything on fire? The story lost credibility for me at that point. Yes, the police were alerted by someone else, but nobody in their right mind would have acted like that. It annoyed me. But that’s just a matter of personal taste and has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. The scenes were full of tension and had me flipping through my kindle at top speed.
Comparing this story to the author’s previous works, especially ‚Walls of Silence‘, I have the feeling it was published too soon. It feels rushed. Well done, great concept, beautifully written, but published too soon. I sincerely hope the author will take more time and really dive deep into her next work. I know she can and I’m looking forward to it!