The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

A true-crime journalist shifts to fiction with a disturbing and authentic tale of kidnapping–and recovery.

The Edge of Normal, Carla Norton’s fiction debut, clearly draws upon the expertise she gained writing Perfect Victim, a 1988 true-crime book about a survivor of kidnapping and captivity. In the novel, kidnapping victim Reeve LeClaire has spent the six years since her escape in therapy and is progressing in tiny, painful increments. The family of Tilly Cavanaugh, another rescued abductee, asks for Reeve’s help in beginning their own process of recovery. This mentorship looks like the most challenging task she’s been offered in years, but will turn out to be the beginning of another nightmare.

Tilly’s kidnapper is behind bars, so why is Tilly still so skittish? What is she not telling the police and district attorney who want to prosecute her case? Pulled into a confidence that may break her, Reeve becomes the only person who can help Tilly and two girls who are still missing.

The reader is privy to the inner workings not only of Reeve’s tortured mind, but that of Tilly’s kidnapper, so there is less mystery in The Edge of Normal than sheer terror and wild, horrified urgency. Norton’s sense of pace is perfect, and her characters draw upon readers’ sympathies skillfully. Norton’s expert understanding of captivity syndromes goes far beyond Stockholm Syndrome (which, she writes, “isn’t actually in the diagnostic manuals”); she renders Reeve and Tilly’s experiences visceral and believable, as The Edge of Normal indulges in all the action and adrenaline thriller fans crave before building to an explosive finish.

This review originally ran in the September 13, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 6 scars.

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