THE GIRL WHO LIVED
Paul Dale Anderson
2AM Publications (306 pp.)
$14.95 paperback, $3.95 e-book
ISBN: 978-0-937491-19-5; January 5, 2017
After spending years in a mental institution, a woman has revenge on her mind in Anderson’s (Claw Hammer, 2016, etc.) dark thriller. Megan Williams was institutionalized five years ago after she killed one man and castrated three others who raped and disfigured her. She earns her freedom by telling her psychiatrist that she knows right from wrong—just what the doctor wants to hear. However, she still plans to murder the survivors of her last attempt at vengeance, which occurred after she’d spent one year in a coma and another undergoing reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. Shortly after her return to Twin Rivers, Illinois, cops find the body of a castrated man and suspect Megan of the crime. Newspaperman Tim Goodman, however, connects the new murder to five of the dead man’s associates, who are all inexplicably missing.
With police watching her, Megan puts her retribution on the back burner. Meanwhile, she’s leery of her older sister Susan’s new beau, Harry Berg. The mob-linked drug dealer hopes to launder money in Twin Rivers, and he’s also in the process of meting out payback to those who’ve wronged him. Soon, the dead bodies are stacking up, and Megan is in danger of arrest. Anderson rivetingly presents his protagonist from a first-person perspective, which clearly shows her instability. As she reveals more details of her attack, it seems as if she’s continually reliving it, which gives the book’s title a sad twist. As a result, readers will initially have sympathy for Megan, but it may subside as the story progresses; at one point, Megan says that she tortured multiple men, all strangers who picked her up at bars, as practice for her revenge; after butchering them, she says, she “showed them mercy and slit their throats to make certain they died.” Still, the story’s intensity rises with each new murder victim, as each puts Megan or someone she knows in potential danger. Anderson, meanwhile, does add glimmers of hope, as when he shows that Megan regrets at least one of her killings.
A relentlessly gloomy but memorable tale that explores questions of morality. — Kirkus Reviews, Feb 6, 2017
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