Thursday, September 29, 2016

Her Darkest Nightmare - Brenda Novak

Publisher: Headline 25.08.16

Source: Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you Headline!)

Page Count: 376

Format/Genre: Paperback/Psychological Thriller

ISBN/Link To Book On Amazon: 978-1472240972 (Paperback £7.99)

Audience: Readers who like their books full of psychopaths, danger, terror and survival instinct.

Summed up in one word: Threatening

Author Bio: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Brenda Novak is the author of fifty books. A four-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader's Choice, the Bestseller's Best, the Book Buyer's Best, the Daphne, and the Holt Medallion. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has the disease). To date, she's raised $2.5 million. For more about Brenda, please visit (Bio from Headline)

First Impression: This book made me genuinely terrified, I had a pit in my stomach for the entire duration of the book and it is a gripping addition to the psychological thriller genre. This book crosses many lines and tackles some of the hardest themes in fiction and Brenda Novak does a spectacular job. Tread carefully with this book as it takes quite the psychological toll.

Dr Evelyn Talbot has learned to live with the fear.

As a teenager she was targeted by her killer boyfriend, Jasper Moore, and survived days of torture. She escaped with her life, but Jasper disappeared before he could be caught.

Now she lives in a world of psychopaths.

As the pioneering head of Hanover House, Alaska's first mental health facility for psychopaths, Evelyn engages daily with killers who have no conscience, no remorse and an ever-increasing desire to murder her, in an effort to try and work out how to stop those that remain free.
But then a mutilated body is found in her sleepy Alaskan town and Evelyn is forced to question everything. Her work, her life and whether her darkest nightmare has come back to haunt her...
(Synopsis from Her Darkest Nightmare - Brenda Novak)


Story/Plot/Narration: Dr Evelyn Talbot has turned her past into an important quest for some much needed answers. When she is only 16 years of age, Evelyn and her friends are taken by Jasper Moore to a cabin in the woods and he proceeds to kill them all one by one. Evelyn is tortured for days by the boy she was falling for, ending up battered, broken and left for dead. Having no closure on the unspeakable trauma she had to endure, Evelyn takes to studying psychology, more specifically socio/psychopathology, and with the help of a therapist, she rebuilds her life. 

Eventually opening a specialist prison hospital called Hanover House in Hilltop, Alaska, Dr Evelyn Talbot aims to study the worst psychopaths that the world has to offer. Feeling established and confident, Evelyn decides to transfer a high risk inmate to her facility to further her studying capability. Anthony Garza is the ultimate psychopath, scored full marks on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Unfortunately, Garza doesn't seem to be the only new addition to the community, after several disappearances and the discovery of the mutilated head of a personal friend of Evelyn's, she and those around her start to believe that Jasper has arrived to finish the job he started all those years ago.

Evelyn has spent the last two decades building her life up from rock bottom, she is not about to let it crumble, fighting the fear and anxiety that threatens to consume her, she has to fight back with everything she has to uncover the dark truth that clouds the facility, the town and its inhabitants.

Genre/Writing Style: This book is relentless! Expect an emotionally challenging and fearsome read. From the brutal, graphic and inhumane prologue, right to the very last page, this book channels so much violence, aggression, danger and anxiety. Evelyn has to push back against the walls that are closing around her on every side, from mysterious threats to controlling colleagues, Brenda Novak went all out with this story. Her Darkest Nightmare is a brilliant addition to the genre, even taking it to the next level. 

Not only do we have to contend with the tension and panic of Jasper returning, there is the cringe worthy, squeamish and grotesque experiences with the inmates of Hanover House, also the grief of losing loved ones and finally the vulnerability and intimacy issues that Evelyn faces everyday. Also factoring in obsession and highlighting the difference between the mentally ill and the evil, this book blew me away. 

This could overwhelm some of the less gutsy of readers so tread lightly here, with graphic imagery and devastating themes, this goes quite far. Following Evelyn and being in her head all the way through this story adds so much emotional depth to this story, making the reader understand her turmoil and the challenge she faces in trust even one person. 

Setting: Alaska was a great choice :) Isolated, harsh and difficult, the snow became an enemy in of itself. Opening an facility for treating/containing psychopaths in a small Alaskan town had already created an atmosphere before the reader meets the present day Evelyn, and that only gets worse with each murder. Everywhere that Evelyn is meant to feel safe is tainted by the arrival of a killer in Hilltop, and word reaches around everywhere. Choosing Alaska because of the remoteness and the affordability, its ironic that it is about to cost her everything.

Characters: I have already discussed Talbot quite a bit, so I will quickly discuss other important individuals present.

Jasper Moore - A phantom, hidden in the shadows, using others to play his games.
Anthony Garza - 100% Psychopath. Wants Evelyn all to himself.
Benjamin Murphy a.k.a Amarok - Local law enforcement, protector.
Hugo Evanski - Threatening psychopath. All ways in the know. Wants to help.
Sigmund the cat - he is a cat :D
Fitzpatrick - Evelyn's co-founder of Hanover House. He wants things his way.

Themes: Vulnerability. Anxiety. Lack of control. Lack of conscience. Intimacy. Death. Psychopathology. 

Likes/Dislikes: First off, I love the serial killer quotes that head each chapter, they totally set the scene and give events an edge. I was impressed that Brenda Novak managed to convey so many emotions/themes and still make an wholly coherent story. My favourite part of this book was the incredibly toxic atmosphere that hangs over the town and facility. Everyone seems to want someone to fail or suffer. My least favourite part of this book is the repetition, revisiting the same idea/thought/scenario over and over, though it did help to keep me focused on subtext and clues to who might be terrorising the town/Evelyn. 

Overall Opinion: Impressive! I was blown away by the intensity of Evelyn and the story. A cast of interesting and horrific characters. A perfect setting. An experience and successful writer. I was filled with concern, dread, anxiety, wonder, fear and many other experiences throughout the duration of this book and I recommend it for those who are looking for a more awe inspiring read.


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