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Wednesday 5 October 2016

‘Security’ by Gina Wohlsdorf

Published by Algonquin Books,
1 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-61620-562-1(HB)

Warning: this book is not for the weak of stomach. Almost from the outset, there are graphic descriptions of the goriest murders I’ve ever encountered on the page – and I read a lot of murder mysteries. If Quentin Tarantino doesn’t put in a bid for the film rights, he’s missing a trick.

But as long as detailed close-ups of the murderer’s craft don’t make you wish you’d said no to that bacon sandwich a couple of hours ago, you’ll be gripped. It’s well written, interestingly structured, full of surprises and definitely out of the ordinary.

The setting is Manderley: not the burnt-out shell at the end of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, but a discreet luxury hotel which has borrowed the name, the kind that caters for the ridiculously rich, and protects their privacy with iron-clad security and lets them escape from long lenses and prying fans and reporters for a while. It isn’t open yet; the manager and a handful of carefully selected staff are applying the finishing touches, and the invisible security staff are testing their systems.

Except that...

Somewhere in the hotel lurks a killer. It’s unclear, at least at first, whether he – or possibly she, but he is more likely – is in the pay of the paranoid billionaire owner, and setting out to give those systems a thorough workout, or if she/he has been sent in by a rival to create the kind of mayhem and bad publicity that will bankrupt the billionaire.

The killer’s mission is simple: leave no one alive. And slowly, inexorably, the killer goes about the task...

Meanwhile, Tessa, the manager, is mustering her troops: cleaners, chefs, tradesmen, a gardener. Each has his or her own story, sketched in along the way. Tessa herself has a more interesting background than most, though she doesn’t talk about it – and then a little bit of her past turns up on a motorbike.

All the above happens, or begins to happen, in the first couple of chapters. The rest of the narrative is partly cat-and-mouse game between the killer and his unwitting victims, partly unfolding romance as Tessa and Brian rediscover each other, and one hundred per cent edge-of-the-seat tension and gritted teeth for the reader, who is almost the only person who knows what’s going on.

Almost. Up on the carefully shielded twentieth floor, where the security team do what security teams do with hidden cameras and monitors, someone is watching...

Yes, it really is that tense. Once you get past all that gore, you won’t want to put this book down.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Gina Wohlsdorf was born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. She graduated from Tulane University, taught English in the south of France, sold books in four states, and earned an MFA at the University of Virginia. She currently lives in Colorado.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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