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January 1&15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Trapped!
Writers will use any trick in the book to build suspense, but the device of rendering characters trapped and powerless is one they go to again and again. Is it because the writers themselves are trapped and alone in their writing rooms, powerless to change things except in the world of fiction? Well, maybe. But trapping characters also works because readers are powerless, too—powerless to do anything but turn the pages to see what happens next.
Buried Secrets. By Joseph Finder. 2011. St. Martin’s, paper, $9.99 (9781250000361).
The title pretty much gives this one away, so take that as your spoiler alert. A teenage girl meets a handsome stranger in a bar, accepts his offer of a ride home, and finds herself buried alive in a coffin 10 feet underground. Did we mention that the girl is claustrophobic? Well, if she wasn’t, she is now. The scenes from her perspective make for excruciating reading.
Dead Silence. By Randy Wayne White. 2009. Berkley, paper, $9.99 (9780425233306).
Marine biologist and black-ops agent Doc Ford saves a U.S. senator from an attempted kidnapping, but a 14-year-old Native American boy riding in her limo isn’t so lucky. A mere pawn in a plot by rogue Cubans to recover a cache of Castro’s private papers, the boy is buried alive with an air vent providing a rapidly diminishing air supply. Another buried, silenced teen? We’re thinking this has as much to say about the dark fantasies of parents as it does about authorial craft.
Deep Shadow. By Randy Wayne White. 2010. Berkley, paper, $9.99 (9780425240090).
White liked the buried-alive scheme so much that he used it again the following year—although this time, the victims are buried underwater, not underground. Doc Ford and three companions are on a treasure-hunting trip in an isolated lake when an underwater avalanche leaves all but Ford trapped under tons of limestone. A cave keeps the victims alive with, naturally, a dwindling air supply. Meanwhile, psycho killers wait on shore and, if that’s not enough, a sea monster is circling.
Faithless. By Karin Slaughter. 2005. Dell, paper, $7.99 (9780440242918).
In the fifth entry of Slaughter’s dark, forensic-driven Grant County series, the buried-alive motif is used to build intrigue, not suspense. Police chief Jeffrey Tolliver stumbles over a metal pipe in the woods and makes a grisly discovery: a young woman was buried alive in a wooden crate for several days and appears to have died of asphyxiation. An autopsy by coroner Sara Linton, Tolliver’s ex-wife, reveals that the death may have been accidental—and the burial may have been a form of punishment. This one’s past tense, but empathetic readers will still get the chills.
The Keeper of Lost Causes. By Jussi Adler-Olsen. Tr. by Lisa Hartford. 2011. Plume, paper, $16 (9780452297906).
Grumpy Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck has been exiled to Department Q, a cold-case Siberia. But the presumed corpse in one of his cases, that of a beautiful politician presumed lost at sea five years ago, is still alive and kicking, imprisoned in an airtight chamber where her captor has been literally increasing the pressure. When the door opens, she’ll die a horrific death. Give Adler-Olsen, one of Denmark’s top crime writer, credit for the most fiendishly creative method of entrapment on this list.
The Silence of the Lambs. By Thomas Harris. 1988. Griffin, paper, $14.99 (9780312195267).
Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter is the better-remembered of Harris’ two terrifying serial killers in this book, but, for our money, Buffalo Bill is a whole lot scarier. He doesn’t play mind games or wax philosophical about the nature of evil—no, he throws you in a pit, starves you for a few days, then slays and flays you. (Ted Levine is no Anthony Hopkins, but his delivery of “It puts the lotion in the basket”—words not in the novel—is something you won’t be able to wash out of your ears.) As FBI trainee Clarice Starling joins the hunt, Bill is starting to work more quickly, which is bad news for poor Catherine Martin, the young woman in the pit.
Silencer. By James W. Hall. 2010. Minotaur, paper, $14.99 (9780312543792).
Hall’s hero Thorn, the quintessential off-the-grid loner, usually wants to get as far away from other people as he can. Here, he gets his wish, sort of, when he’s kidnapped and left in a dry well, where he waits for most of the novel. How do you keep readers hooked when the hero himself is out of the action? Two words: character development. Hall creates rich, multidimensional portraits that keep us absorbed until Thorn can once again access his lizard brain and unleash the beast.
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