The Collective: A Novel

Image of The Collective: A Novel
Release Date: 
November 2, 2021
William Morrow
Reviewed by: 

The Collective is a heart-pounding thrill from beginning to end. . . . In this newest book, national bestselling and award-winning author Alison Gaylin does not disappoint.”

Camille Gardener’s world was destroyed when her 15-year-old daughter Emily was raped and killed at a fraternity party. The young man who committed the crime was never brought to justice. In fact, he and his parents promoted a story in which Emily seduced him, painting him as the victim. Camille hasn’t been able to forgive, and certainly not forget, what he did. How can she move on when her beautiful daughter has been not only murdered, but slandered, as well? She moves through life in a daze of sadness and rage, trying to live, but periodically taken over by her grief.

“I’m not always this way. That is to say, nine-tenths of the time I’m calm and cool and going about my business. I do website design out of my home, and when I meet with clients—usually at the one coffee shop in town, since my house is hallway up a mountain and hard to get to—I put on a nice dress or a nice pantsuit and heels and behave in a professional manner. I work hard. I don’t miss deadlines or pull diva fits when someone wants a change to the design, even an ill-advised one. From time to time, I catch up with old friends over lunch. I make jokes, even. But Emily is always on my mind, a ragged bundle of memories, cocooned in a constant, gnawing pain.”

And then Camille is contacted by a group of women like herself, other mothers who lost their children to perpetrators who have never faced jail time or any consequences for the horror they created. At first, Camille is invited to join a Facebook group where these women spill their sorrows without judgement, supporting each other without the clichés of those parents who don’t understand, who tell Camille she needs to “move forward.” But after a ranting post in which Camille says she just wants her daughter’s killer to die, to suffer as Emily did, she receives an invitation to another sort of group when she visits her daughter’s grave.

“There’s a tingling at the back of my neck—that primordial sense that someone is watching me—but I’m not afraid. I feel protected. At the center of the bouquet rests a business card, glossy black against the ivory blooms. I remove it and turn it over, my breath coming out fast, a burst of condensation in the still air. There are two words on the car—the same font as the one the silver-haired woman gave me in the city, thin white letter against the black. Aglayan Kaya. The Weeping Rock.”

This new group, while still filled with grieving and angry mothers, has a different sort of plan for healing. As far as Camille can tell, once she finds them on the dark web, Aglayan Kaya takes those wishes for revenge and makes them come true through a series of assignments given to the participants. Is it a game? Is it something to give these mothers a purpose, a mission? Or are they actually responsible for the deaths Camille is seeing in the news? And most important of all, if it truly is a collective bent on revenge, can Camille really be a part of this darkness? Can it heal her? She isn’t sure. But she decides she must find out.

The Collective is a heart-pounding thrill from beginning to end. Gaylin’s writing and storytelling lead the reader toward a solution that is unpredictable until the final pages. Recommended for all who like suspenseful dark reads. In this newest book, national bestselling and award-winning author Alison Gaylin does not disappoint.