Review: The Never List

July 16, 2013 Whitney Review 2 Comments

Review: The Never ListThe Never List by Koethi Zan
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on July 16th 2013
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 303
Source: Netgalley

The most relentless, deeply disturbing thriller writer since Jeffery Deaver and Gillian Flynn

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan’s debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Watson.

When I was in 6th grade I wrote a paper on medieval torture, I have no idea why I chose the topic as I was always a happy, nonviolent kid. Perhaps, it was because The Man in the Iron Mask starring Leonardo DeCaprio had just come out, still the intrigue held. I feel sick even admitting my interest in the subject, but I still find it eye-rising to this day; although now I think it is more of a psychological stand point — what would posses someone to torture another human being? The thought repulses me.

As young girls Sarah and Jennifer created a “Never List” a safety list of don’ts ranging from natural disasters to rape and kidnapping. The list of precautions they take is extreme and leads them through college until one night they get into a cab taking Sarah and Jennifer to an inescapable Hell.

After years of captivity, only three of the four girl emerge from the cellar with Jennifer’s body never being recovered. Ten years later, Sarah has formed a new identity as Caroline but the scars still remain. Sarah/Caroline never leaves her Fort Knox apartment and has an even longer “never list”. When she is given the news that her abductor is up for parole she sees this as her opportunity to avenge Jennifer’s death, and for her friend, Sarah fights back her phobias to learn the horrid truth.

Due to the success of Gone Girl last year, many thrillers have been touted as “The next Gone Girl” or “If you liked Gone Girl” while I would love to find a Gone Girl equivalent the promo has been thrown around so often that it feels redundant and less believable. Although there was something unique about The Never List that set it apart from the pack. This is most likely due to the fact that it did not succumb to the recent trend of spousal revenge, going off on a limb with a topic that is disturbing and rarely talked about. Whatever the reason, The Never List is a contender.

Koethi Zan’s novel was set at a suspenseful pace heightening the reader’s senses. My ears would prick up intently listening for a creak down the cellar stairs to a dungeon eerily described. I could feel the heaviness in the air and the dirt on the bottom of my feet, trying to itch away the bugs. My eyesight was foggy with everything coming in sepia tone, giving the time in the cellar an out-of-body experience. When we are removed from the cellar and it is clear how messed up Sarah, Tracy and Christine are no matter how they try to mask it, I was heart-broken.

When Sarah and Tracy decide to do some detective work of their own and are taken into another horrific lifestyle it began to fall apart for me. The scenario felt disjointed, seeming out-of-place and overall thought it was poorly planned. Although it found its purpose in the end.

The conclusion was marvelously creepy, going back to the house of horrors where the truth comes out, revealing that no one is as innocent as they seem. The happenings of the fateful day of escape that the novel has been leading up to is outstanding with a twisting finale worthy of fireworks. The Never List is a book that should be on every mystery-lovers must read list.


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