Sunday, September 29, 2013

The edge of normal by Carla Norton

Six years ago a young girl was found after four years in the hands of a sadistic paedophile who left her mentally and physically scarred - but after years of therapy she has changed her name and is finding her feet in the world again.  Her therapy under Dr. Lerner has enabled her to make huge bounds in her life, but it was also thanks to the intervention of another survivor, and when Dr. Lerner asks her to help a young victim with a story eerily similar to her own, Reeve finds herself drawn into a tangled story of kidnapping, paedophilia, and a race against time to find two other missing girls.

Tilly may be a victim of a dark and twisted crime, but with Reeve's support she is already slipping back into her old life, but she is keeping secrets from her family, the police, and the district attorney.  Kept on the outside by the district attorney, Reeve drifts at the edges of the investigation while trying to help Tilly, but there is only so much she can do.  When she uncovers a big clue she decides to investigate herself, unaware that there is someone keeping track of her movements and following the whole case very closely - someone who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

The edge of normal is a dark and more than a little bit disturbing, taking a very uncomfortable subject and crafting a thriller around it.  Reeve is a survivor of horrendous sexual abuse and survived years of captivity, and it is through her eyes that we see a lot of the story - it is her flashes of the past that fill in some of the gaps and keep the human connection to a story that is disturbing on quite a few levels.  The author has taken very real material (having written a non-fiction title of a similar topic) and created a cast of characters around that story - and while at times the characters and the dialogue feels a little flat and two dimensional, the story is strong enough to carry its own weight and keep the momentum of the novel moving.

This is not a story for the faint hearted, as while there is no gratuitous descriptions of the sexual and physical violence, there is enough information there to gain a picture of what Reeve, Tilly, and the other girls have gone through.  There are several themes running through this story - hope, survival, starting fresh after trauma and tragedy, and realising what you are capable of.  For a first novel with such a heavy topic at the centre Norton has done an amazing job of being sympathetic to the characters while also creating a story that is absorbing and twisted, especially as you get towards the end of the novel.  It will be interesting to see if Norton writes more novels and if she continues to tackle such dark and unsettling material - or if she branches out into "safer" territory for her future works.  A little more polish to her writing will see her well placed in the thriller market, although a less dark topic may lend itself more easily to more a more polished style.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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