by Karen Robards
ISBN: 0786256540

Post Your Opinion
A Review of: Land of the Living
by Des McNally

When convinced that a novel deserves superlatives, I have always chosen restraint, supposing it is kinder, to those books that follow, not to set the bar too high. On the other hand, it is unfair not to acknowledge the great enjoyment derived from reading a fascinating thriller.
With the first 40 or so pages, Nicci French plunges the reader into a situation filled with suspense and terror. Abbie Devereaux, an attractive 25-year-old awakens to her worst nightmare in a dank, darkened room. Her head is hooded, her neck restrained by wire attached to the wall above and behind her, with hands and feet also painfully tethered by wire. Although she is aware of a head wound, her horror is made more extreme by not knowing who she is, where she is, or why she is in this predicament. Only by forcing herself to perform mental gymnastics does she manage to recollect her name and portions of her life.
French succeeds wonderfully in getting the reader to identify with the protagonist by showing Abbie in her more rational moments as well as during periods of panic which is gradually dispelled as she struggles bravely to compose herself. Her unseen abductor, through grunts and wheezes, chillingly tells Abbie that he intends to kill her; she will be his sixth victim. Abbie attempts to establish some level of communication with her captor, but her hatred and dread of him makes this impossible-there is to be no Stockholm Syndrome here.
Through inner strength, and sheer obstinacy, our heroine makes her escape only to be haunted by her loss of memory and in this sense remains a captive. Medical authorities, with the exception of one Neurologist, the Police and friends are skeptical about Abbie's tale of kidnapping and torture. Abbie must now prove her honesty and sanity by reconstructing her past, an endeavour which could potentially unmask her abductor.
French scatters hints liberally, causing us to suspect several of her characters. It could be Abbie's alcoholic live-in boyfriend Terry, or Todd the psychotic. And who on earth is her "friend" Jo Hooper? Through a fast-paced, taut telling of the story, French has us effectively gripped by compassion, fear and anger for Abbie.
While this narrative has all the elements of an absorbing thriller, there are a few weaknesses. Surely "caller ID"exists in the U.K.! Abbie, while desperately attempting to hide her whereabouts, frequently telephones friends and even unknowingly, her kidnapper, yet no-one attempts to trace her location. In addition, the premise which has her following the trail of someone who wanted to buy a kitten, as she endeavours to reconstruct past events, seemed too contrived.
Despite these quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed this suspenseful, fast-moving thriller and found that while I wanted to reach the denouement with all its answers, I also didn't want the book to end.

Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us