I recently discovered the audiobook lending program through my local library, so I’ve been taking advantage of my long commute to get a little more reading done. Or listening, as it happens. I just made my way through the audiobook version of Land of the Living by Nicci French.
The book opens with Abby Deveroux waking in the dark. She doesn’t know what’s happened. Has she been in a car accident? Is there something more sinister at play? Is anybody looking for her? She quickly realises that she’s in deep trouble. Her world has been reduced to the hood over her head, and the taunts and violence of the man who holds her prisoner.
Miraculously, Abby survives. When she makes it out, she thinks her problems are over. But they’ve only just begun. The man who took her is still out there. The memory loss that plagued her while she was captive turns out to be more extensive than she realised. Abby she is left piecing together weeks of lost time, trying to figure out what happened, where she’s been, who she was with, and what she’s done.
Abby chases her lost memories as the book progresses, trying to trace herself back to the moment that it all went terribly, horribly wrong. And she succeeds. What happens when she finds herself back at the terrible beginning? I’m not going to tell you – I don’t want to spoil it. You’ll want to read this one.
I found the beginning of this novel a little slow to be honest. It was intriguing at first, realising the situation that Abby’s in even before she does, waiting with bated breath to see what happens next. But not much happens for awhile. There’s a lengthy period where the novel takes place almost entirely inside Abby’s head: her struggles with herself, her ideas and plans and desperate hopes. I found myself wondering glumly if the book would prove to be ten hours of Abby’s slow descent into madness and defeat. But thankfully, it does move on eventually.
I’m choosing my words carefully here, because there’s so many little shocks and kicks in the stomach that I don’t want to spoil for you. I loved the way that French was able to set up all these miniature twists and gut wrenching moments all through the book – not just the big kicker at the end. Abby’s memory loss is the main vehicle for this; it means she’s as much in the dark as you are, and makes for some serious shocks.
The book is told from Abby’s point of view in first person, which helps to make her battles more personal. She’s a punchy, relatable character in a lot of ways, and you’ll find yourself backing her – except when you get the sinking feeling that she’s making a terrible mistake.
French has a way of building suspense by giving you a sense of what’s about to happen, teasing it out before you finally get there until you’re dying to know what happens next. Land of the Living might be slow to start, but by the end this book is hard to put down. Make sure you’ve got time to read the last few chapters in one sitting. I made the mistake of listening up to the second to last chapter on the way to work, and had to wait eight agonising hours to pick up from where I’d had to stop.