The Never List by Koethi Zan

the never listChillingly believable…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Publication due 16th July (US) and 1st August (UK).

When Sarah and her best friend Jennifer were growing up, they made a list of all the things they should never do if they wanted to stay safe in a world that they had already discovered could turn dangerous in an instant. But one night they forgot the most basic never of all – never get in the car

It’s now been ten years since Sarah escaped from the cellar where she spent three years of her life, imprisoned and tortured by sadistic and manipulative Jack Derber.

“There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn’t made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone.”

The body of the fourth girl has never been found. Now Derber is up for parole and has sent cryptic letters to each of the survivors, letting them know he hasn’t forgotten them. Sarah knows the only way to be sure he never gets out is to find the body to prove that he’s not just a kidnapper and torturer, but a murderer too.

Dark and disturbing, this is a real page-turner of a psychological thriller. We see the damage done to each of the survivors and their different ways of coping. Sarah has hidden herself away for years, staying in her apartment and having minimal contact with the outside world. On the surface Tracy and Christine seem to have coped better, but as the women are drawn back into the memories of their ordeal, old terrors re-surface and old wounds are re-opened. There are two strands to the story – as they get sucked into new dangers in the present day, we and they also begin to find out the truth of what happened to them in the cellar.

Koethi Zan (photo: Pieter van Hattem)
Koethi Zan
(photo: Pieter van Hattem)

The quality of the writing is excellent, and Zan has created characters that are as believable as her scenario. Surprisingly the descriptions of the physical and sexual horrors are quite sparse and understated – a great deal is left to the reader’s imagination, though the book is no less disturbing for that. The author concentrates more on the psychological effects of the experience and does so very convincingly. The women don’t suddenly turn into super-heroes – they change as they are forced to deal with their fears and their past, but do so in very credible ways.

Zan gets the pacing just right. After a dramatic first chapter that hooks us straight away, we are given time to get to know and understand Sarah so that we care about what happens to her when the tension starts ratcheting up. And ratchet up it does – to a frightening climax that forces the women to face their deepest fears if they are to survive. One of the best thrillers I’ve read this year, it’s hard to believe that this is the author’s debut novel. Highly recommended, and I’ll be adding Zan to my ‘must read’ list.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

16 thoughts on “The Never List by Koethi Zan

  1. This does indeed sound like a first-rate psychological thriller. And frighteningly possible too. I always respect it when an author let’s us get a sense of the toll that such experiences take on people – it lets us see the reality of the crime without relying on gratuitousness. .

    • It was the realism of this that made it so effective, and I felt the author’s choice not to go into too much graphic detail actually made it more chilling rather than less. It always amazes me when a new author comes out with something so confident and assured. I suspect this one may win prizes – it should do, anyway!

  2. Gives me chills just reading your review! I might not be able to sleep at night if I read this. Too much like Silence of the Lambs. That movie gave me nightmares. I think I’m a wimp when it comes to this type of subject matter.

    • I can only take so much of it myself, though I never find books as scary as films. But at least she wasn’t too graphic in this one – so frightening but not gruesome. Too believable though, given all the recent news stories…

      Hope my other post doesn’t keep you awake! 😉

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