LAND OF THE LIVING
A horrifying premise catalyzes this fast-paced, suspenseful thriller: A woman wakes up in a darkened room, bound, disoriented, unable to recall the recent past. She is terrorized and abused by a strange man who taunts her with the names of other victims. But for Abbie Devereaux, a 25-year-old Londoner, the nightmare really begins after she escapes. Recovering in a local hospital, she must confront the fact that no one believes her story. Her doctors think it's all a fantasy, "a cry for help." Det. Insp. Jack Cross can't find a crime scene. And when Abbie's well enough to go home, she discovers that her life—her job designing office interiors; her boyfriend, Terry; the flat they shared—has been destroyed, but she hasn't a clue as to how or why. Has she had a breakdown? Is she still in danger from the kidnapper? The bulk of the novel is about Abbie's inventive efforts to reconstruct her life and discover what really happened to her. French (Killing Me Softly) does a good job of making this unlikely scenario believable. But the larger authorial challenge is making Abbie, an average and unambitious young woman who has clearly made some bad choices in her life, into someone resourceful enough to solve the mystery. The book is psychologically astute about terror—Abbie's panic and bewilderment throughout her ordeal are rendered with precision—but her more basic motivations don't always ring true. Still, it's a suspenseful and harrowing tale, occasionally dipping into the truly gruesome, with powerful narrative drive. (May 1)
Forecast:With film rights to the novel sold to Warner Bros. and a major advertising campaign (television, print and transit) in the works, this latest offering by Nicci French (pen name for the married writing team of Brits Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) stands a good chance of climbing the charts.