ELEVEN HOURS by Paullina Simons


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Beat-the-clock suspense in a pedestrian kidnaping narrative. After stabs at American Gothic (Tully, 1994) and at high-brow whodunit (Red Leaves, 1996), Russian-born novelist Simons tries her hand at a mean-and-lean woman-in-periler, as far as possible from the genre’s traditional willowy divorcÇe heroines. During a last-minute spending spree in a Dallas shopping mall, Desdemona “Didi” Wood, in her ninth month of pregnancy and experiencing what she imagines are false contractions, meets Lyle Luft, a good-looking, clean-cut twentysomething fellow who gallantly offers to carry her bags. She brushes him off, then encounters him again in the mall parking lot, where the searing noontime heat, her soon-to- be-born baby, and Luft’s menacing tone make it almost impossible for her not to get into his van. Meanwhile, Didi’s husband Rich wonders why Didi stood him up for lunch. A call to Didi’s cell-phone brings out the beast in Lyle, who begins to eat, verbally abuse, and sadistically torture the poor woman. At the mall, Rich discovers Didi’s car, scattered packages, and suspicious bloodstains. The author then pulls us through predictable scenes with vacuous mall drones and skeptical cops while cross-cutting to the loudly suffering Didi and simmering psycho Lyle, who brutally assaults anyone who gets too close. Fortunately, Rich has a soulmate in stoic FBI kidnaping expert Scott Somerville, who is soon on Lyle’s trail. When Didi’s contractions begin, Lyle reveals that he is going to kill her after she gives birth and then flee with the infant to Mexico. The gory scenes that follow are made as agonizingly hideous as Simons’s spare prose will permit. Blatantly manipulative and gratuitously horrific; still, this might just be the breakout novel its author intends. (Literary Guild featured alternate/Mystery Guild selection; author tour)

Pub Date: June 18th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18091-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998


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