Scare Me by Richard Parker (Exhibit A, April 30th)-Will Frost, the successful CEO of Ingram International in the UK, and his wife, Carla, are excited about the return of their 19 year old daughter, Libby, from a trip in Thailand with her boyfriend, Luke. They’re hoping to spend some time with her, since she’ll soon be having a baby, and surely moving in with Luke, the baby’s father. They’re in the midst of installing a high tech security system in their renovated sixteenth century hunting lodge since someone had lit a bonfire on their front steps. Will thinks it may have been a prank, but he wants to be able to identify any trespassers on the property from now on. Not only is he excited to see his daughter, but he’s hoping her visit may take Carla’s mind off of a recent tragedy. Little does he know, but Will is about to have more to worry about than bonfires.
In the dead of night, the night before Libby and Luke are to return from Thailand, Will receives a phone call asking if he’d Googled himself lately. He does indeed Google himself, and finds a website containing pictures of Libby and Luke, but these aren’t vacation photos of a happy couple, they’re horrible pictures depicting them bound and gagged, along with pictures of the inside of his own home. Soon, he’s instructed to go to seven different homes and retrieve items that supposedly belong to Libby. Only then will there be any chance of seeing his daughter alive again. Will and Carla are terrified, but they’ve been told that if they involve the police, Libby will be killed, so Will heads to Florida to the first address. It’s only after he completes his task at the first home, that he’ll be given the address to the next, and so on. The carnage at the Florida house is unspeakable, but Will steels himself to his task while Carla uses GPS to keep track of him back in the UK, and also tries to find any connection they might have with the victims, and why they might have been targeted, since no ransom demands have been made. What could the killer possibly hope to achieve by playing such a sick game? How far will Will go to save his daughter, and how far can he go before he loses his sanity?
I dare you to read three pages of Scare Me and put it down. I’ve seen Scare Me described as Se7en-esque, and I suppose that’s a decent comparison. The similarities mostly lie in the grisly scenes that Will must navigate in order to collect each item. The novel goes back and forth between Will, Carla, Libby’s ordeal, and yes, we even get to follow along with the killer (as well as a few other surprises.) He even gives us a name, but you won’t understand the killer’s motivations, or identity, until the end. Parker isn’t cruel, though. You won’t have to wait until the very end before he drops a big clue about the killer’s identity, and I started to have inklings earlier on, but there’s good reason for that. You’ll see what I mean. If it seems like I’m being coy, it’s because I am. Revealing too much would be spoiling the fun of this fantastic thriller. Granted, I’m usually of the “call-the-cops-if-someone-is-kidnapped-no-matter-what” camp, but I’m a parent, and I certainly can’t tell you for sure what I would do if it was my child that’s been taken. I can tell you that I would be desperate and terrified, which Will and Carla certainly are, and Parker does a keen job exploring Will’s motivations as well as Carla’s, and they aren’t always the same. They’re definitely on the same page about getting their daughter back, but sometimes they don’t quite agree on the “how.” Through it all, though, they remain firmly united and although Will is in the thick of things, traveling literally around the world, one step behind a brutal killer, Carla proves just as capable back home.
As for the killer… Scare Me actually opens with the first murders, and you’ll get a really good idea of what you’re dealing with, or, at least, you think you will. By the time you get to the end, you will want to see this sick, evil, diabolical person meet their end in the most horrid way. However… Think you can’t have sympathy for a psychopath? Richard Parker may make you change your mind, and he’ll take you on a wild ride in the process. Scare Me is not only an effective, fast paced thriller, but it also mines some very uncomfortable and sometimes tragic territory, which adds depth that you sometimes don’t find in conventional thrillers. There’s a reason why Scare Me has already been optioned for film-and it’s not even out yet! Lock your doors, keep the lights on and plan to stay up late, because this is one very clever scavenger hunt from hell that you won’t want to miss!