Koethi Zan’s first novel, The Never List, is a chilling story that is not only fantastically told with flowing and occasionally tongue-in-cheek writing, but takes every opportunity to twist and turn. It explores the dark depths of a murderer’s mind, as well as the bruised and scarred victim’s psyche. It answers the question that we always think about when watching crime shows on TV: what would happen to an abductee if they were ever to escape and how they would cope?
The novel begins with Sarah the narrator in her captor, Jack Derber’s cellar. She has been there for three years with three other girls: Tracy, Christine and her best friend Jennifer, who she was abducted with. Jennifer, after spending years in a wooden box in their cellar has been taken out of their prison and not returned.
The book then jumps to ten years in the future, after Sarah has escaped and Jennifer is presumed dead. However, her body was never found meaning Jack Derber could only be convicted of kidnap and could be released from prison straight away, after serving only ten years.
Sarah is asked to give a witness impact statement, as well asTracyand Christine, so that Derber will not be released from prison and they can get on with their lives. After ten years of still receiving nonsensical, rambling letters, Sarah is in no rush to see the man who almost drove her to insanity. House-bound by agoraphobia and crippled by anxiety, Sarah makes a decision to not just keep Jack Derber in prison, but to avenge Jennifer’s death by finding her body and getting him convicted for her murder. Little does she know how much this is easier said than done and how firm a grasp Derber still has on not just her life, but many others.’
Zan’s novel takes you on a journey of personal discovery with Sarah as she fights her deeply ingrained fears to help her friend. It takes her back to the state ofOhiowhere she’d originally been kidnapped, a place she had vowed to never set foot in again. It also brings her back in contact with Tracy and Christine, neither of whom she has spoken to for ten years; and forces her to confront many of her anxieties, both rational and irrational.
The Never List is unlike any other thriller I’ve ever read. Disturbingly detailed without being graphic, it keeps you completely hooked and submerged in the story. It also has two shocking twists, which takes the tale away from the repercussions of one man’s psychosis, to terror on a much larger scale. An aspect of the novel which I find intensely interesting is that it doesn’t just show you the ‘who’ and ‘when’, it tries to show you the ‘why’. It looks at the story most horror films don’t tell, the ‘after’ instead of the ‘before’.
By Nia Griffiths