Saturday, 16 July 2011

Weirdness at the Weekend: Land of the Living by Nicci French

She doesn’t know where she is nor who it is feeding her, talking to her—threatening to kill her. Yet Abbie has courage and, above all, hope. She escapes her captor and runs back into the light. But the real world, the safe one, isn’t as she remembers it. There are days missing before she disappeared—days when she quit her job and left her boyfriend, did things she can’t explain to the police, her friends or even herself. Why won’t anyone take her story seriously? Because if Abbie can’t convince anybody that it really happened, then maybe he will come for her again. And she will wake in the dark, hooded and bound…

Land of the Living is a slow starter for a reason. It shows the monotony of Abbie’s life now, as she’s gagged and bound by an unknown captor. Time slows for her, to the point where she has no idea how long she’s been there—until she devises a way to not only occupy her mind but to keep track of how many hours pass between visits from the man who has taken her. He feeds her this mushy, baby food type stuff, and helps her go to the toilet on a bucket. He wheezes a lot—I found that damn creepy, considering she’s in total darkness. That noise must have sounded horrendous. And he tells her she’s trussed up in such a way that is she launches herself off the platform he says she’s on, she’ll hang herself. Despite Abbie trying all the psychological tricks to keep him talking, make him see her as a human being and not just a “thing”, her plans to make friends with him while she figures out a way to escape fail.

But she does escape, and her flight to safety had my heart pumping like a goodun. When she’s in hospital and the police and psychologists question her, I thought the tale would go on to show how the police found the man who had abducted her, but it didn’t. The police didn’t believe her story, and she was allowed out of the hospital, back out into danger. She had lost memories of the time before her abduction, so being “out there” in the real world was doubly scary for her. Not only did she have no clue what the hell she’d been doing before her incarceration, she had to watch out that the man didn’t get to her again.

At one point, the plot twists, and as a reader I began to question whether she had made it all up for attention. Then, when Abbie takes it upon herself to retrace her steps—steps she didn’t even know she’d taken, ones she had to struggle to work out for herself—the book starts to get really interesting.

I enjoyed it very much, always do when it’s a Nicci French novel, because the creepiness, the weirdness of life and people are always so well displayed in her stories. Great writing, great plot, and a damn fine look into the mind of a woman who has a chunk of her life missing.

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