Ten years ago, Sarah Farber escaped a madman's cellar in Portland, Ore., where, for three years, she and her best friend, Jennifer, and two other girls were raped, tortured and starved.
Now 31, the psychologically frail Sarah rarely budges from her supersecure New York apartment, where she goes by the name Caroline Morrow. But after she receives an insinuating letter from her imprisoned abductor, a college professor who was convicted only on kidnapping charges and may soon be paroled, Sarah risks re-entry into the world to find evidence that he murdered the still-missing Jennifer. Inspired by the stories of real-life abductees, including Jaycee Lee Dugard, Zan affectingly puts us inside the damaged Sarah's skin. The book depicts with harrowing efficiency the professor's sick brainwashing experiments involving mutilation, starvation, beatings and stabbings. We have to wonder whether someone still recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder would be so bold (or dumb) as to return to the scene of the atrocities and put herself in harm's way in investigating a bizarre BDSM cult with links to the evil professor. The title of the book is taken from a list of no-nos Sarah and Jennifer drew up before they were trapped in a cab and abducted: Never hitchhike, never enter parking garages at night, etc. Sarah handily overcomes other fears by flying around the country in search of answers after recruiting her other former cellar mates, edgy goth punk Tracy and oddly readjusted investment banker's daughter Christine. The cast of characters keeps the plot afloat. There certainly is something to be said for a mystery that features as many strong females as this one.
Zan's first novel is a haunting depiction of the emotional scars left on women held in captivity.