I have never met Kevin O’Brien, but from almost all that I am able to gather from folks, he appears to be a pretty nice guy. I say “almost” because his novels, which are terrifying, riveting and spellbinding, are populated by some of the most reprehensible characters in existence. And not just one per book, either. I assume he is making them up in some dark corner of his psyche, while a good and decent angel keeps its hands firmly on the wheel of the rest of him. I hope they stay there, because one doesn’t want people like that stumbling around in the real world.
"Once you start reading TERRIFIED, you will not want anything to get between you and its conclusion. The last 100 pages or so will have you riding the edge of your seat...while what has gone before will give you nightmares."
The above goes double for TERRIFIED. O’Brien seems pretty much incapable of writing badly, and here he ratchets up his already considerable game a notch or three. Accordingly, if you are going to read this book at home, get out that chair with the extra-long seat and park yourself in it for several hours. You’re going to be out on the edge of it.
TERRIFIED takes a basic plot that has been used before to great effect and seamlessly adds a couple of bells and whistles to it, making things all the more memorable. Lisa Swann is a suburban Chicago woman who is used as a punching bag --- and worse --- by her husband, Glenn, a prominent physician. Lisa engineers her disappearance with great care, popping up in Seattle with a new name (Megan Keeler) and an unexpected package: an unborn child she has conceived with Glenn. Meanwhile, Glenn is charged with and convicted of murdering Lisa and goes to prison.
Over the course of several years, Megan builds a new life for herself and her son in Seattle, holding new relationships at arm’s length while keeping a mindful eye on the news from Chicago. What Megan does not realize is that someone has been watching her practically from the minute she first arrived in Seattle, invading her space, stealing items that she’ll never miss --- and carrying out a series of gruesome murders.
To add fuel to the fire, Glenn is freed from prison on the basis of new evidence and learns from a mysterious informant that Lisa is still alive. He, of course, is hot for revenge. In the meantime, Megan’s mysterious stalker is preparing to carry out a plan that he has been plotting for almost two decades, even though she barely knows he exists. Then the worst happens: that which she treasures most is stolen from her. With nowhere to turn and no one to trust, Megan must channel an inner strength she never knew she had and confront her past, so that her present and future at least have a fighting chance.
Once you start reading TERRIFIED, you will not want anything to get between you and its conclusion. The last 100 pages or so will have you riding the edge of your seat (remember that long chair I recommended?) while what has gone before will give you nightmares. O’Brien’s writing has never been stronger, and his pacing is on target from beginning to end. And the ending? It’s a surprise. But don’t peek. Just settle in and let O’Brien take you for a ride you will never forget.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 29, 2012