A mentally disturbed young man tries to track down a woman who was kidnapped right before his eyes in Heard’s debut thriller.
Twenty-three-year-old Sean Suh has been institutionalized for most of his adult life and officially diagnosed as schizophrenic. Now he's been released and lives in Austin with his mother, a world-famous neurosurgeon. The very bad thing that got him committed is a thing of the past, or so he’d like to think. Realistically, putting his hands near a female neck or a knife block is probably not a good idea, but when he meets flame-haired pre-med student Annabelle at Four Corners, an amusement park where he spends most of his days sketching people, Sean is smitten. His hopes of lasting romance are soon shattered when he sees Annabelle thrown into a white truck and driven away, screaming his name. Sean is immediately a suspect, and his past doesn’t help, so he decides to find Annabelle on his own. His search takes him from the nightclubs of Austin to the dusty small town of Lone Herman, where the cops are not very friendly, especially to a goth Korean-American kid poking his nose where it doesn’t belong. As Sean digs deeper into Annabelle’s fraught past, he finds himself falling down a deep, dark rabbit hole. The crushingly lonely Sean, who narrates, is a most unusual and very conflicted antihero. Heard challenges readers to empathize with him despite his horrific past, and the blazing narrative gleefully subverts a few horror/thriller tropes. The 1986 setting, which places the book's action at the tail end of a prolific stretch of serial killers, lends a grungy feel, and readers might even be forgiven for expecting the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface to appear during a few of the rural Texas sequences. Heard doesn’t rely on a lot of gore, though there's an undercurrent of low menace that builds to a nearly unbearable crescendo in the last act. In less capable hands, the delightfully dark twist and final denouement might not work, but Heard pulls it off.
A diabolically plotted creep show from a writer to watch.