Book review: The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton
The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton
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Reeve LeClaire enjoys a part-time waitressing job, has her own apartment and lives a pleasant, structured existence. It all sounds pretty normal…

But 22-year-old Reeve’s life is far from routine – when she was barely twelve years old, she was abducted, tortured and held captive for four years. Now she spends her days teetering on the edge of normal.

So how will she cope when the police ask her to help them find a serial abductor with uncanny links to her own nightmare? Can Reeve face down her demons to unearth the terrible truth?

Carla Norton pushes us to the edge of our seats in this cleverly understated but gripping psychological thriller which draws readers into a complex web of victimhood, cold-blooded sadism and spine-tingling suspense.

Co-author of the non-fiction bestseller Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box, a real-life account of abduction and abuse, Norton has become an authority on how women survive the misery of captivity and rebuild their lives.

The Edge of Normal is her stunning debut fiction novel, a powerful, well-researched story depicting the mind games of a ruthless psychopath, the chilling realities of abduction and its devastating effects on both the victim and their families.

Written from the dual perspectives of Reeve and the abductor, Norton weaves a fast-paced, terrifying journey through despair, anger, terror and sheer dogged determination to a brilliantly deceptive and nail-biting conclusion.

Reeve has a fragile stability but with the help of her eminent San Francisco psychiatrist Dr Ezra Lerner, she has started to build a life of independence.

She is no longer the feral girl who was suddenly freed from her captor in a freak car accident and who responded to the early media attention by ‘whacking down cameras.’ She has a new name and thinks of herself ‘as agile, not skittish. As serious, not grim.’ She has slowly transformed herself into a composed young woman and is starting to think that she’s ‘almost normal.’

But Reeve’s stability is fragile and she knows she will never shake off the terrifying memories of the monster she has always believed is behind bars. When 13-year-old Tilly Cavanaugh is rescued from a basement having suffered a similar experience, her parents ask Reeve to help their daughter rediscover a ‘normal’ life.

With two other young girls still missing, Reeve soon realises that she may not simply have to mentor the young girl; she may be the only one who has the knowledge which will help to find the perpetrator and who can protect Tilly from a cunning predator who is still out there, watching their every move.

Norton is not afraid to tackle serious and disturbing subjects in this twisting, turning thriller which excels in its gritty realism, sharp, authentic dialogue, astute psychology and startlingly credible characterisation.

A clever and impressive debut from a talented writer…

(Macmillan, paperback, £12.99)