Review

The Edge of Normal

by Carla Norton

Reeve LeClaire is 22 years old, but she barely survived four years of her young life. Six years ago, thanks to a fortunate car accident, she was rescued from the man who kidnapped her, holding her captive and torturing her. Today, her life might seem fairly normal in many respects. She has an apartment and a job waitressing in San Francisco, but her life does not feel truly normal, and she suspects it never will. She is not only terrified of strange men, but fears she will never have a romantic relationship of any kind.

Reeve has long been a patient of Dr. Ezra Lerner, a psychiatrist specializing in captivity syndromes. During her regular appointment with him on this day, they discuss her new job at a Japanese restaurant and her continuing lack of dates. As Reeve leaves Dr. Lerner’s office, the receptionist announces an unscheduled guest and then informs her that her appointment and all of Dr. Lerner's other appointments for the next week have been cancelled.

"[T]here’s a big pay-off in the second half when suspense builds as Reeve and one of the most despicable villains in recent literary history enact a deadly  cat-and-mouse game."

Lerner has been called to Jefferson City, California, where 13-year-old Tilly Cavanaugh was recently rescued from a hidden basement after 11 months in the captivity of a sadistic predator. The renter of the house in which Tilly was hidden, a man named Randy Vanderholt, confessed to kidnapping her. What no one else knows (but readers soon discover) is that Vanderholt is merely the tool of Duke, the mastermind behind the kidnapping and torture of Tilly and other victims. Duke employs "keepers" like Vanderholt to snatch and then hold the girls Duke chooses. Duke uses a wide variety of electronic devices to keep an eye on his keepers and his victims, plus he has quite the ace up his sleeve: he's a respected surveillance expert and computer specialist --- and is a member of the local police department.

Tilly's family requests a meeting with another of Lerner's patients --- they are understandably cautious about exposing their vulnerable daughter to an unknown man, even one with excellent credentials. Reeve hesitates when Lerner approaches her, but soon relents. Tilly's situation awakens emotions in Reeve that she has worked hard to tamp down, even as she grows closer to the girl.

On the day confessed kidnapper Randy Vanderholt is to appear in court, a shocking event sends Vanderholt's lawyer scuttling into hiding. This event also seems to devastate Tilly, which puzzles Reeve…until Tilly, swearing Reeve to secrecy, confides information about her captivity. Vanderholt was merely the secondary predator, working for a mastermind who threatened Tilly’s family if she ever told anyone. Tilly's secret sets Reeve in urgent motion. She recognizes she is the only one who can stop the man Tilly knows only as "Mister Monster." What she doesn’t know: the monster knows she is on to him.

Fans of thrillers and true crime books will eagerly devour THE EDGE OF NORMAL. Some readers may find the pace to be a bit slow for the first half of the book as author Carla Norton sets the stage, but there’s a big pay-off in the second half when suspense builds as Reeve and one of the most despicable villains in recent literary history enact a deadly cat-and-mouse game.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on September 27, 2013

The Edge of Normal
by Carla Norton

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250031044
  • ISBN-13: 9781250031044