The story centers upon the aftermath of the abduction of two college girls, Holli and Zoe, after a weekend in Vegas “blowing off steam”. Zoe escapes the psychotic killer while under the influence of the date rape drug, Rohypnol, though reality is so distorted for her she can never quite remember the details.
What keeps this story from being just another run of the mill, is Zoe’s life and death struggle to cope with survivor’s guilt and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Unable to return to her PhD studies, or pursue her life dreams and goals, Zoe abandons family and friends in an almost suicidal effort to make amends for the fact that she has made it back to the land of the living, and her friend Holli has not.
Under the care of a persistent and determined therapist, Zoe is led to understand that her guilt is driving her into dangerous waters. After abandoning any thoughts of college and career, she takes a self-defense course and becomes a mall cop. Her goal now is simply getting through every day in hopes of keeping someone else from becoming a victim. But the guilt driving her altruism comes with an explosive rage, and a need to set herself up as bait for victimizers.
Almost a year and a half after her abduction and escape, she hears of a murder similar in all respects to her own ordeal, except the new victim did not escape. Zoe has never been able to recapture her lost memories of that night — not the route the girls had taken, or the restaurant/bar where they were abducted, or the face of their tormentor.
Some time after she had returned home, Zoe tried to retrace the route up to the point where she and her friend were taken, to see if she could reclaim some of those memories. She didn’t get very far before the sweats and trembling began and she had to turn around.
Unable to live with the half-life she was still enduring, Zoe determined that no more women would die because she was afraid or unable to act. She began to trace the ill-fated Vegas route she and Holli had begun together, and ended so tragically. With no body ever found, nor a murder site located, Zoe could not even get closure. All she knew was that she had left her friend behind. But now she knew something else. It wouldn’t happen again.
- The restaurant/bar that was finally located had never responded to the fact that the two girls had been there, Even given the fact that Zoe could barely give any information at the time, and police were skeptical that there had even been an abduction, surely local news networks would have picked up on this with names and photographs.
- The animal rescue shelter employees — where the killer worked — knew the latest victim who was murdered. But this fact was never brought up or discussed among them, nor did anyone think to go to the police with this information.
- When the disoriented Zoe was originally found in her wrecked VW, the car was pointed in the wrong direction for home, as if she had tried to turn around, perhaps to go back for her friend. But this fact was never brought to her attention.
- Characters needed a tiny bit more fleshing out. But that should come with time and experience.
- The author was able to tell his story clearly and well.
- It moved from point to point without getting bogged down.
- The author had not only a good grasp of PTSD, but showed his own insight and empathy through the eyes of his protagonist.
- The interior monologue (thoughts of characters) was interesting and made a contribution to the plot and/or state of mind of the individuals.
- The author did not yield to the moronic romance writer syndrome, with a character going on and on with what-ifs and therefores, and words and words of nothing but words and words with no substance, which has seemed to inundate every genre for the past few years. In other words, he did not give in to Lazy Writing.
- Simon Wood has other titles out there, and I’m going to look them up. He has great potential. On his website, this British native who is now an American, reveals that he suffers from Dyslexia but has a great imagination. His wife edits his work. Sounds like a marriage made in Heaven.