Never Let Go - Lori Duffy Foster
Published by Level Best Books, Tuesday 20th December 2022
No explicit spoilers - but proceed with caution!
Carla Murphy is happily married and has just had her first child. It should be the happiest time of her life - but her best friend has other plans.
Rachel has abducted Carla and her son Christopher, out of an obsession with Carla's husband. Terrified and trapped alone in Rachel's basement, Carla has no choice but to help her best friend seduce her husband, or she'll kill them all...
I know a thriller is supposed to go off with a bang, but Foster really does launch you into the action.
From Chapter 1 we're trapped in the basement with the fragile and terrified Carla. Rachel is a disembodied voice floating in through the walls, and the stakes are quickly established:
Carla isn't going anywhere, Rachel is in love with Nick - and if she has to starve Carla into submission, she will.
My favourite element of the opening chapters was how quickly Foster establishes Carla's resilience and determination, even in her helpless situation. The book is written in close third person, and we're in her head enough to get a really vivid picture of her thoughts and feelings, without it being the emotional drain you sometimes get with first person.
This is all then contrasted with the second chapter, which follows Nick. The police don't believe that anything sinister has happened to his wife, beyond her deciding to leave him and take the baby. The second chapter sets up the suburban America setting that exists beyond the basement, and we get a glimpse of Rachel with Nick, as she sets her plan in motion...
Quite a character
Of the three central characters, Carla, Nick and Rachel - I found myself warming to Nick most. He is written so convincingly, and even as I was shouting at the page while he made some truly terrible decisions, his actions made total sense for his situation.
From the start, Rachel as a character is clearly unhinged. I would say if you like your thriller masterminds to be subtle and on the less extreme-end of the disturbed scale, this isn't the book for you. However, for me, it didn't spoil anything about the book at all. Rachel is a total wild-card, and the extreme nature of her character means you just can't predict what she'll do next.
This is an interesting book to write about the ending of! If I consider my expectations at the beginning of the book, I was very surprised at the plot and twists that came about half way through. Foster does a bait and switch and spins the book in a totally different direction than I was expecting.
I enjoyed the switch up of the traditional structure, but I don't want to say anything about the ending in case I give it away!
The only thing I would say is that I loved the slow-burn reveal of the book's main sub-plot. I think without it the second half would have felt untethered, but as it was it worked perfectly.
I've really enjoyed reading more American writers while reviewing books this year, and I'll definitely keep an eye out for more by Lori in the future.
If you like a high-stakes, pacy domestic thriller then Never Let Go will certainly satisfy those wants, while putting a spin on the usual format.
I was given a free advanced-reader copy of this book, in exchange for a review.