Abby lives in a lavishly decorated secret cave in the woods, doted on by the handsome and mysterious Sam. She’s free to sketch all day, losing herself in her artwork, mythology and the classic literature Sam loves to read aloud. She wonders about her life before she met Sam, but the details are too fuzzy to pin down, and everything seems perfect as she basks in the glow of Sam’s affection and care. Leaving their snug hideaway to uncover the truth is out of the question, anyway, because Sam fears Abby will be attacked by the evil denizens of the world outside, which he’s dubbed Circle Nine, after Dante’s most intimidating Circle of Hell. His reasoning doesn’t hold up: Abby notes that Sam leaves the cave to get “medicine” from his “doctor,” Sid, while Amanda, another Circle Nine resident, turns up to live in the cave, too. Amanda makes Abby question her perceptions of the cave, the food they eat, even Sam’s motivations. Astute readers will have sussed out most of Sam’s problems and Abby’s past well before her memories trickle, then surge back, eliminating the urgency and suspense essential to any psychological thriller’s success.
Abby and Sam’s tragic story is better suited to tearjerker fans than die-hard thriller readers. (Mystery. 14 & up)