Wednesday, July 17, 2013

REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: The Never List by Koethi Zan


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.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: July 16th 2013 by Pamela Dorman Books 

ISBN  0670026514 (ISBN13: 9780670026517)

About the Author
from Goodreads

When Koethi Zan was born in the sleepy farming town of Opp, Alabama, the “City of Opportunity,” her mother was Valedictorian of the local public high school and her father the star of its football team. Her parents named her after the homecoming queen of Lurleen B. Wallace Junior College, perhaps hopeful that some of that glory would rub off on her.

But Koethi would never be a homecoming queen. In fact, she spent most of her youth in her room, reading, listening to Morrissey, and avoiding everything connected to high school football—not an easy task in those parts.

After graduation, Koethi put herself through Birmingham-Southern College with scholarships and a small “cow fund” courtesy of Molly, the Charolais heifer she’d received as her third birthday present. She used the money wisely, travelling to New Orleans on the weekends to hit the club scene, almost always in silver-sequined costume, surrounded by transvestites, Goth kids and her gay male entourage. Perhaps, in some roundabout way, she had fulfilled her homecoming queen destiny after all.

Then, in what may have been a misguided fit of pique, Koethi threw away her all-black daywear and her thrift-store evening gowns, and went to Yale Law School, with some vague idea of becoming a film producer. Afterwards, however, she unexpectedly found herself twenty-eight stories up in the Manhattan offices of Davis Polk & Wardwell, a prestigious white shoe law firm that represented mostly investment banks. She regularly pulled all-nighters working on secured financings and revolving credit facilities. She tended to wear demure black pantsuits, with her hair up. 

It didn’t take her long to realize corporate life wasn’t for her, and Koethi spent the next fifteen years practicing entertainment law both in private practice (at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and, later, Schreck Rose & Dapello) and in-house business and legal affairs positions (for the film producer, Ed Pressman, and, most recently, at MTV), with a slight detour along the way to study cinema at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. 

As an entertainment lawyer, Koethi attended glamorous premieres and openings, international film festivals and celebrity-filled parties. She dealt with gritty production issues as varied as suicide threats, drug overdoses and sex-tape allegations. She warred with Hollywood agents and befriended reality stars.

Then, while Senior Vice President & Deputy General Counsel at MTV, she decided to fulfill a lifelong dream on the side, and in the early mornings she wrote a crime novel, The Never List.
Now, coming full circle in a way, Koethi, her husband, Stephen Metcalf, and their two daughters, live in an old farmhouse in a rural community in upstate New York. Her husband occasionally watches a football game on television. But her daughters have never even heard of homecoming queens.

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My Thoughts
There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn't made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone. For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, wondering which of us would be next in the box.
This is the story of three women, held captive and tortured for years by a sadist, and now 10 years free and still attempting to deal with the results of their ordeal. One of the women is on a quest to find out what happened to her friend Jennifer, the fourth girl who died during their captivity.

Of course, first I must state the obvious and point out the crazy coincidence that this book was released right around the time that the three girls were rescued in Cleveland after ten years of captivity.

The story was intriguing. And at times the writing could be quite engaging. However one thing that really bugged me was the dialogue between the girls. It felt unauthentic, stiff and formal. Usually I am a dialogue reader-- it's what I prefer. Not this time. I came to dread the dialogue, as everything else in the story was so much better written. For example, just after the girls met, one of the girls says to the other, "I'm very sorry you've had to join us. You look like a nice kid. It's a shame. the other girl-- you know her?-- has saved one of us from something we were very afraid of, and so, I must admit, for that we are very glad." (page 26)

Sorry. I just can't picture this formal and stilted way of speaking coming from a girl who has been isolated and chained in a basement, tortured over a period of time. What a weird way for her to greet the new girl on the scene!  "I'm very sorry you've had to join us"?

And then there's this cringe-worthy passage.
"...One john is easier than hundreds of johns. Simple math. With one john, I don't care how psycho he is, you can figure him out a little bit. Understand how he works. Plan ahead. Manipulate. Not a lot. But enough to make it hurt a little less. When you've got new johns all the time, who the hell knows." (page 213)
Now I say this as someone who has tried her hand at writing, and realized just how difficult it is to write well. This dialogue looks like something I would have written, and I cringe a bit when I read my own dialogue. So I am wielding the same criticism against this author that I wield against myself!

There were also a few strangely worded passages, such as one moment when the term "violent outbreak" was used, which sounded very awkward, rather than the use of the common phrase "violent outburst".

At times the story was bogged down by "tedious techie drivel".
"With this particular app," she explained, "you can share your GPS location with others in real time. Jim downloaded the app, and we connected. Then he could track me as I followed the van."

I nodded my head appreciatively. Naturally, Christine had the latest, most advanced technology. (page 221)

And there were times the story was just plain ridiculous, such as when this girl just decides to leave after having been rescued.
"You're leaving? Don't they need to take your statement? To make sure they have all the evidence they can get?"

..."Nah, they've got plenty of stories to go on..." (page 224)
Uh, yeah. You are a central figure in a major crime, and the FBI is going to let you just walk out, because there are plenty of other victims and witnesses to talk to. They can get by without you...NOT!

And again at another point when the girls get out of protective custody with no trouble at all. As if you can be in protective custody with the FBI, and then can just call up someone and say, "Uh, we decided we don't want to be protected any longer. We're leaving." And whoever is on the other line just says, "Okay. We'll call our guy back to the office. Take care, and good luck! We'll contact you when we need your testimony for the criminal case!", and doesn't even contact the head detective on the case to get his input or to alert him.

My final word:  This story had its moments. It wasn't generally gratuitously violent or gory. (Considering the context, I feared I may be walking into something like the movie "Hostel", and was happy to see it was not.) Some of the writing was pretty good, and the story kept me guessing, wondering what would come next. There was a nice twist at the end that made the story ultimately satisfying. But I struggled with the dialogue and some of the characters, and some things were just plain ridiculous. I recommend this book, but not without reservations.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

Cover: B-
Writing Style:

My Rating:

GIVEAWAY: The publicist has generously offered a copy of The Never List to one of my readers. To enter, just complete the form below. Sorry, but this giveaway is open to US residents only.


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

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