The Girl Who Survived
“Jackson’s writing is seasoned and taut, and her threads of suspense tangle and writhe.“
What kind of damage does a seven-year-old take when almost her entire family is murdered while she’s hiding up in the attic? Kara McIntyre can’t be expected to remember everything in detail, can she? Yet this little girl, who’s survived a massacre because her stepsister insisted on moving her out of the way, must testify the next year as one of the witnesses in a dramatic court case that pins the deaths on Kara’s surviving half-brother, Jonas.
As Lisa Jackson opens this fast-paced and twisted thriller, two chapters spill out the terrifying tale from the child’s perspective. It couldn’t be more scary than that, could it? Yet there’s more suspense and terror ahead, because despite her shattering psychological damage, Kara at age 28 is forced to relive every detail, when the court system releases Jonas and, yes, he’s able to get her phone number, just like that.
What are her strengths for countering this? Not many—she’s still unable to form friendships, relies fiercely on her therapist (who’s headed out for vacation), and the one relative she ought to be able to count on, her Aunt Faiza, has other priorities.
In fact, in The Girl Who Survived, Kara has every reason to think she won’t make it through the next two weeks—until she’ll receive the considerable inheritance set aside for her. Seasoned thriller readers will hear in that “two weeks until inheriting” position that Kara has two escalating weeks to dodge peril and threats in order to reach any long-term safety.
Jackson’s writing is seasoned and taut, and her threads of suspense tangle and writhe. What did Kara’s stepsister Marlie know ahead of the massacre? What did Marlie mean when she’d told the little girl that “there’s something . . . something really bad, Kara”? Despite the hint of haunting and evil, that something is all too human. Yet until journalist Wesley Tate pursues Kara, first for her story, then for more personal reasons, the past seems as blocked off and dark as a small child’s memory can make it.
Even the police detectives chasing down Jonas after his release and trying to figure out Kara could have dark motives. Detective Thomas can’t help wondering about his associate, Aramis Johnson. “She was secretive. He chalked it up to her being a private person, but maybe it went deeper than that. Maybe she was hiding something.”
This suspense novel is ideal for those who like their chills sustained and their suspicions justified. “Solve-it-yourself” readers may be frustrated by Jackson’s steady additions of more motives, more “bad people,” and Kara’s inability to protect herself (thanks in part to an insidious drinking habit), although if a person is reflected in how they choose their companion animal, Kara’s dog Rhapsody, loyal and sensible, indicates that under the surface, this frightened woman may yet forge enough good choices to survive.
In the tradition of a true thriller, that “may yet” won’t be clear until all the villains are unmasked and all the bleeding finally ends.