The Never List
Review: When the man who abducted, abused, and tortured her for three long years is up for parole, Sarah Farber is determined to do whatever she can to see that he doesn't leave his jail cell, in The Never List, a novel of psychological suspense by Koethi Zan.
For ten years Sarah has been a virtual recluse in her New York City apartment, rarely going out except to see her court-appointed psychiatrist. But the idea that Jack Derber may be released from prison is incentive enough to get moving. Her starting point: proving that Jack is more than just a kidnapper, but a murderer as well. Her friend Jennifer, who was abducted with her, disappeared during their ordeal, presumably having died during one of Jack's "sessions". The police have no evidence of this — her body was never found — but Sarah knows that if Jennifer had lived she would have made contact by now. Sarah's only clue: a letter Jack has written her, which she believes makes oblique if also taunting references to the two other young women held captive at the same time, both of whom survived. If they, too, have received letters, possibly by working together they can come up with the evidence they need to lock Jack away for life.
The premise of The Never List is an intriguing one, especially with respect to the putative puzzle element. But there isn't much follow-through, with the letter serving only as a convenient bridge to move from one plot point to the next in the early chapters with little regard to Sarah actually "solving" what it means. More troublesome is how the characters are drawn, in particular Sarah. Here is a woman who loathes to be physically touched, so much so that she won't shake hands with anyone. Closed spaces terrify her. And in ten years she still hasn't revealed everything that happened with Jack to her psychiatrist for fear of it somehow coming back to haunt her. Yet at the first opportunity she's boarding a cross-country flight, checking into a hotel room, pouring her life story out to strangers, and accompanying someone she'd met just that morning to an BDSM club that night. Yes, she desperately wants to do whatever she can to keep Jack in jail — the FBI, not surprisingly, have little to contribute here other than be her resource for information she can't readily get elsewhere — but this sudden burst of courage simply isn't credible. Nor are the amazing number of coincidences that seem to allow Sarah to, within a few days, put together a case against Jack that the FBI hasn't been able to do in a decade.
Fast reading, to be sure, and possibly the first in a series — the ending certainly sets up a sequel — there is so little of substance here that it's hard to imagine wanting to read through another book featuring these same characters.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of The Never List for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Never List: New York City; New Orleans; Oregon
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The Never List by Koethi Zan
Publication Date: July 2013
List Price: $27.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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