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Saturday, 29 October 2016

‘Her Darkest Nightmare’ by Brenda Novak

Published by Headline,
25 August 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-4097-2 (PB)

A research centre cum prison for violent psychopaths would appear to be a recipe for trouble, even when it’s located miles from anywhere in the most inhospitable terrain the planet has to offer – but psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot has created exactly that, in order to pursue her mission of getting to the bottom of what makes her inmates/patients tick, and possibly find a way to help both them and potential future victims.

Evelyn has personal reasons for pursuing such a perilous course: in her teens she narrowly escaped an attacker who had already murdered her three friends in a particularly brutal way; her assailant had been her lover, and got clean away after the crime, leaving her traumatized but nonetheless desperate to understand what had happened.

Twenty years later, despite opposition from family and counsellors, her drive and determination have ensured she has become eminent in her field, and she has set up Hanover House, a high-security prison and study centre, in a small town in Alaska. The centre and Evelyn’s quest have been running for just a few months when another friend is murdered as savagely and bizarrely as the earlier ones, leading to the obvious conclusion that her teenage attacker has tracked her down.

The hunt for the killer through the worst of the fierce Alaskan winter is only one strand in this tense, meaty thriller, made more intriguing by the fact that the only police presence in the town is a single state trooper more used to dealing with careless motorists than violent murder. Power struggles between the medical staff of Hanover House is another; the uneasy relationship between the local community and the research centre yet another. And Evelyn’s developing love affair with the state trooper and her resolute attempts to face down her own demons runs alongside all the hostility and disruption.

Brenda Novak weaves these threads into a complex, thought-provoking narrative with enough  misdirection and edge-of-the-seat tension to satisfy the most avid murder mystery reader and plenty more besides. Her descriptions of the Alaskan weather and surroundings confirmed my view that it’s not really a place to choose for a holiday. Amarok, Evelyn’s would-be lover, is a country boy born and bred, and also handsome, sensitive, perceptive and possibly a little too good to be true, but none the less well-drawn for that. Evelyn’s colleagues and co-workers at Hanover House are all acutely individual, as are the two psychopath inmates we are introduced to. And the final unexpected twist augurs well for future titles in a promising series.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak's career as a bestselling author--she caught her day-care provider drugging her children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day. That was when Brenda decided she needed to quit her job as a loan officer and help make a living from home.
"When I first got the idea to become a novelist, it took me five years to teach myself the craft and finish my first book," Brenda says. But she sold that book, and the rest is history. Her novels have made the New York Times, USA Today and Borders/Waldenbooks bestseller lists and won many awards, including two Rita nominations, the Book Buyer's Best, the Book Seller's Best and the National Reader's Choice Award.
Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are proud parents of five children--three girls and two boys. When she's not spending time with her family or writing, Brenda is usually working on her annual fund-raiser for diabetes research--an online auction held on her Web site every May. Brenda has raised over $1 million to date.

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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