Land of the Living is the latest thriller from the husband-and-wife team of journalist Nicci Gerrard and writer Sean French. They have produced (as Nicci French) several first-rate novels of psychological suspense, such as The Red Room, Beneath the Skinand Killing Me Softly.
Land of the Living is possibly their most assured outing yet, with all the carefully crafted plotting and assiduous characterisation that has distinguished their earlier work. The basic situation is intense and immediate: Abbie Devereux wakes up and finds herself hooded and bound, with no idea of how she ended up in this terrifying state. She is tended to by a man she never sees: a man who makes the promise that he will eventually kill her "like the others". Abbie is forced to re-examine aspects of her identity, her career and the dying relationship she had with her boyfriend. The struggle for survival is physical and mental. If French's compelling novel owes more than a little to John Fowles' masterpiece The Collector, it is none the worse for that. And the delineation of extreme mental states has all the disturbing assurance of Patricia Highsmith. --Barry Forshaw