I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, Ecco, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Captive is a compelling, intriguing thriller. The plot moves along quickly. Rustic noir isn’t a subgenre I’ve come across before, and that mixed with the slightly dystopian setting kept me interested. The writing was solid. Unfortunately, it left me dissatisfied.
Our story takes place in near future in which a rural state has seceded from the Union and cut itself off from the rest of the US. Life here is very rural and agrarian, with a few small towns but no true urban areas. The people who live here have a hard life, but most consider the hardship worth the preported freedom they claim. This could be an idyllic culture if not for the drugs and the infighting said drugs bring with them. It’s essential a technologically deficient microcosm of the world in which we live.
I’m a sucker for well crafted rural settings, and that is to me Foster’s greatest strength in this book. She imbued the story with a very strong sense of place, and that is a large part of why I kept reading even when annoyed by other elements of the book. I could feel the cold and the wet, and I could see how it balanced with the beautiful. I love the dichotomy between danger and beauty that so defines nature in my mind, and that was well presented here.
The plot itself is an interesting one. Brooke, a wife and mother with a lot of skeletons in her closet, finds an enemy from her past hiding on her family’s farm. Terror and greed have her capturing said enemy and taking him to the outside world, where she can claim the bounty federal agents have placed on his head. The bounty is enough to give her and her family a fresh start somewhere new. The problem is, she’s hidden her past so well that her family doesn’t see why they could possibly need a fresh start. Brooke’s husband and children know nothing of her past, and can’t understand the person she has morphed into since discovering their trespasser.
And now we come to my problem with the novel: Brooke. Honestly, I had issues with all of the characters, and found the characterization to be the least believable and most obnoxious element of the story. The entire plot could’ve been resolved in 20 pages had Brooke actually communicated with ANYONE. She guarded her secrets like priceless jewels and then, when that decision endangered everyone and everything she loved, she seemed blindsided by it. What did you expect, Brooke?! TALK TO YOUR HUSBAND, BROOKE. Seriously every single problem in this book could have been solved by open and honest conversation. It drove me insane.
I think The Captive is going to be a popular book, especially for those who like their thrillers with unreliable narrators à la Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. The dystopian rural noir setting is an unusual one, and it’s what drew me to the book in the first place and kept me reading. But if failures to communicate serving as the driving force behind a plot make you crazy, maybe skip this one.
Expected publication: January 12, 2021
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