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by Carla Norton
Minotaur Books, September 2013
320 pages
ISBN: 1250031044

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Reeve LeClaire is 22, seemingly normal to outsiders. But she suffers from panic attacks, even in broad daylight, can't ride in elevators, and has a body covered with scars. She carries emotional scars, as well, as a survivor of a kidnapping. At age 12, she was held for four years by a man who raped and tortured her.

She is still struggling to be "a normal adult," with the help of therapist Dr. Ezra Lerner, when Lerner is contacted by a family whose 13-year-old daughter, Tilly Cavanaugh, has just been freed from a kidnapper. The family wants more than his help; they want someone who can relate to Tilly. Lerner tries to persuade Reeve to help. She is reluctant at first "It's not like she's a card-carrying member of the Pay-it-Forward Society of Kidnapping Survivors," she thinks but ultimately she agrees. She and Tilly do bond, so well that Tilly spills a secret, making Reeve promise not to tell anyone else.

Her secret makes Reeve realize that a serial kidnapper is at work, and that two other missing girls may still be alive somewhere in Jefferson City, Calif. Without being able to tell police, Reeve takes it upon herself to investigate further. At the same time, the man who kidnapped Reeve years ago may be released from the psychiatric hospital in which he's been held.

This is a compelling story, especially in light of recent news stories in the United States about women held in captivity for years. The author, Carla Norton, is also an expert, having written PERFECT VICTIM: The True Story of the Girl in the Box, based on the real-life kidnapping of Colleen Stan, a young hitchhiker who was picked up in California by a man and his wife and kept captive as a sex slave for seven years. The book has sold nearly a million copies and has been put on the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit reading list.

Norton's first work of fiction has some glitches, especially toward the end, where everything just happens to resolve itself too quickly. But it's still a strong book, with a damaged but resilient protagonist we hope to see again.

Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, December 2013

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