Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Never List - Koethi Zan (Audio)

I'd seen a number of great reviews for this book when I got a copy of the audio from Penguin, which was great timing!  Penguin Audio is the bomb!  I'm always curious and excited when I hear of a strong debut mystery thriller novel.

The eerie thing about the release of this novel is that its premise...about a group of women held hostage in a basement by a madman...coincided with the real life story that broke at the same time about the three women in Cleveland who escaped after ten years of a similar fate.  Koethi Zan must have been shaking her head at the coincidence, and served to strike a chord with anyone who reads this book.

Synopsis:  Sarah and her best friend Jennifer, scarred after being involved in a tragic childhood auto accident, have since constructed a extensive list of things to avoid for the sake of their safety.  In a weak moment, however, they accept a cab ride home from a party in college, and are kidnapped and held captive in a basement with two other girls for over three years.

A decade later, Sarah (who has since changed her name) lives the life of an agoraphobic, and has no contact with the other girls who escaped all those years ago.  Sarah is still haunted by the fact that Jennifer never made it out, but her body was never recovered.  When Sarah learns that her captor is up for parole, she decides to take action and try to find Jennifer's body to provide proof of murder, and put the man away forever.

With the assistance of the other two girls, who harbor deep grudges against Sarah, they set off on a quest that forces them to confront their past, a sub-culture of BDSM, torture experimentation, and the truth behind what happened to Jennifer.

My thoughts:  On the surface, I found this audio to be very fast-paced and spine-tingling based on the general plot.  As I said before, there have been enough real-life cases of this nature to make this story all too believable.  The descriptions of what these girls experienced were cringe-worthy.  I don't want to minimize that.

But I had some issues that just didn't sit well with me.  The idea that someone who is scared of people, who is a serious agoraphobe, and doesn't even leave her apartment to get groceries...suddenly decides it was time for action and proceeds to fly all over the country, sneak into warehouses, interview people and chase suspicious characters...really?

And for her to partner up with two other girls that previously HATED her, and cleverly solve mysteries as a team?

It seemed too easy and contrived.  I liked the idea that these women could shake off their past in this way for the greater good, like a damaged version of Charlie's Angels, but I didn't buy it.  Also, in an effort to spin a healthy number of red herrings, there were a number of plot threads dangled in our path, but were never resolved.  The story just felt incomplete.  The author definitely has potential though, and I'm anxious to see what she comes up with next.

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator Kristin Sieh, appears to be a new voice on the scene (she did also narrate Bristol House, which is on my list), but did a great job here.  She has a great tone...tough sounding, with a hint of vulnerability underneath.  She was a great pick for this book.

Listening length:  8 hours and 39 minutes (320 pages)

3 out of 5 stars


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't think I could listen to abuse - it's bad enough to read it!

Beth F said...

This was one of those odd audios -- fantastic performance and production but the book fell flat by the end because of all the unresolved story threads.

JoAnn said...

I've got an audio review copy, too, but have been hesitant to listen... guess there's no hurry ;-)

bermudaonion said...

A lot of people had issues with her getting over her fears like that but it didn't bother me for some reason. I think I liked this one more than you did but I didn't love it.

Ti said...

The first half was great, but the second half fell apart. No way would those girls put themselves in that situation again. No freakin' way! And the bondage and S&M stuff? Weird.

Literary Feline said...

It's too bad the story wasn't better. The premise sure sounded good though! I'll have to look for the narrator's other work. She sounds worth listening to.

Anonymous said...

Jason and I listened to this on out trip to Vermont and, like you, I was happy at how fast paced it was, but some of the things that happened were just so contrived that it ruined some of that. I am excited to see what she comes up with next.

Iliana said...

How weird that this book came out just when everything was going on in Cleveland right? Talk about chills!

I have this one on my stacks and do plan on getting to it one of these days.