Following the successful TELL NO LIES in 2008, Julie Compton writes sort of along the lines of the chick flick Penelope, in which a rich girl has an ugly face. With her intriguing stand-alone, Olivia is a rich woman with an ugly past and a manipulating, conniving father. RESCUING OLIVIA is a modern fairy tale about love, fraught with international intrigue and set not as chick-lit but as a psychological thriller.
Mysterious Olivia arrives in a pickup truck at a Florida resort where Anders Erickson works in landscaping maintenance (he’s a lawn boy). His travels have been limited to a brief diving trip in California and his somewhat estranged sister’s house in suburban Chicago. Thirty-something Anders doesn’t have a passport and never thought he’d need one.
That changes, however, when the motorcycle on which Anders and Olivia are riding is run off the road by a black Mercedes-Benz. With only a bad case of road rash, Anders is released from the hospital where Olivia is comatose. Caring nurse Carrie takes Anders to see her and shows him his name newly tattooed on Olivia’s neck, marking her commitment to him. But Olivia’s conniving father, Lawrence Mayfield, claims that his daughter died and that Anders murdered her.
Two cops show up at the house Olivia shares with Anders and threaten him with legal action, but Anders later learns from the local PD that these officers don’t exist. Real police tell Anders, “No fatalities, insufficient evidence of criminal intent.” There’s a “Twilight Zone” thing going on when hospital medical records vanish without so much as a bill to an insurance company left as proof. Only his injuries and crushed motorcycle allay Anders’s doubt that the accident occurred.
Olivia’s manipulative father piles high cards of lies, including a bizarre experimental drug Cranitex that eliminates recent memories. Anders belatedly learns why her memory had been erased. He topples the card-house by tracking Olivia to Connecticut. There, a gang of local “good old boys” had involved her in unimaginable acts, the cause of her father needing to eliminate recent memories with Cranitex. The G.O.B. mob nearly separates the close proximity of Anders’s soul and body, described in a horrific beating scene to be read through cringed eyes.
With “jaundiced bruises around his eyes” weeks later, Anders and Lenny find themselves on a dude safari in Kenya. The chase continues into Tanzania with Anders not knowing who to trust, not even Makena, the midwife who had brought Olivia into the world when the Mayfields lived in Kenya and has been Olivia’s lifelong surrogate mother. Finally, Anders rescues Olivia, not only from the control of her father but from a horrendous bipedal animal in Africa. The psychological hurdles that the characters go through in this book will keep readers breathless to the end.
With rich writing (“He heard the traffic on I-95 and mistook it for the surf”), Compton dissolves writers’ stumbling blocks like piles of salt in the rain. An intriguing read with more twists than a plate full of rotini pasta, this is a five-star story of devotion as Anders questions how far he will go to rescue Olivia. The answer is not surprising: “He’d risked his life for her, but maybe it still wasn’t enough. For either of them.”
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy (DeanMurphy@Verizon.net) on January 23, 2011