Author Koethi Zan
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 letter 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.Review: Never get in a car with a stranger. Never ignore your instincts. And, never leave your friends behind. The events that take place in The Never List will undoubtedly hit a nerve because they make use of the deep dark monsters that haunt most females worst nightmares. Conjured from waking fears, this dark horror mystery comes full circle leaving everyone, including the characters, wondering how they got back to the very place they swore they'd never go again. Another never. Never return to the scene of a crime.
The main boogieman is Jack Derber, a respected scholar who preys on young co-eds by using various abduction M.O's, but all in the name of science. However, the art of abduction is not the end, but the beginning of a horror trip filled with years of sadistic torture both psychologically and physically. Up until recently, I might have thought it difficult and fictionally too cunning for a single predator to hold three victims captive in a house for years. What makes this fictional horror even more chilling is its timing. It is eerily similar to the recent Ohio kidnapping case (May 6, 2013) involving victims, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight where an incredible unearthing of a real-life house of horrors occurred. It's hard not to draw comparisons and let the mind wander from fictional depiction to real-life imagination and sympathy for those victims.
In most cases, I really like when I can connect a book to current events, but given the crimes, I'd gladly take pure fiction. Admittedly, the current event connection does heighten the fear and horror factor. However, the subject matter might be challenging for some readers to cope with if sensitive to such topics. The graphic details are after the fact descriptions, but still unsettling.
For the sake of the plot, it is important for the characters to take risks, but given their trauma it is a little hard to believe these particular woman could go through with some of the challenges of privately investigating. Without spoiling anything, several events occur that would cause anyone to crack up, but a person with phobias and severe PTSD, well, I think fiction definitely stretches the believability strand in the name of plot line in this book. But, who am I to say? As I mentioned, prior to the Amanda Berry case I would have thought the entire premise hovered mid-range on the believable scale, but humanity has proven me wrong once again! No one can say just how someone will recover or act after surviving these type of events, simply because there is not enough survivors to base a study on. Thank goodness! I should mention there are a few twists - the first being a bit too convenient and the second is pretty good. I admit, I guessed only half of it and was happily surprised at the reveal.
*ARC provided by Pamela Dorman Books courtesy of NetGalley