Intro: I received an ARC of the book from the author for an honest review.
How well do you know your loved ones?
A girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and five-year-old brother.
A journalist chasing the ghost of a potential serial killer.
A thirteen-year-old girl who slaughtered her parents.
And a revenge-driven psychopath who is about to destroy everyone’s life.
After 9 years, a young writer is still coping with the brutal murders of her mother and five-year-old brother, as she moves into a house of horrors, to start a new life with her lover. Will friends and family be able to redeem Ally out of the impending doom in time? Will her infallible love become the key to the destruction of her already fragile world? Will madness prevail over love; true love over revenge?
Deceived is a gripping psychological thriller that mazes through the deepest, darkest emotions of human mind through the story of a vulnerable girl who treads in the mist of deception bred from a long unforgiven betrayal.
It is quite a way through the book, around 40%, before the title word is mentioned in the story. It isn’t a big deal, until you suddenly notice that the title calls on a deception of some sort. You might think I’m going off-topic here but no, please bear with me.
The central character of the book is Allison, a 24 year-old girl who lost her mother and 5 year-old brother 9 years ago when they were killed. Apart from her, we have 5 main characters, and the dreaded serial killer. This being a whodunit, my mind started whirring right after the first few chapters. With very few main characters, one can easily start taking a guess on who the killer would be. The good thing is, the author has hidden her villain well. She plays the trick on the readers, with misdirections galore. The “Deceived” of the title refers as much to the protagonists of the story as to the reader. You keep looking harder as every chapter goes and aside from maybe one character (or two), you doubt everyone else. That’s the hallmark of an excellent mystery.
Another thing I liked was the thriller aspect of the book. The fear and the imminent danger, whenever such scenes arrive, have been imbibed in the book excellently. You do feel an ominous air around the proceedings. Kudos to the author for that.
The best chapters of the book arrive after the 60% mark. The cat-and-mouse game that starts then makes for a fast-paced ride. The climax, when we reach there, is both horrific and tense, although a little unsatisfactory.
What constitutes a great thriller for me? Believable characters, a well-defined setting, an atmosphere of dread and a tussle (mental or otherwise) between the hero and the villain.
On the last of these yardsticks, Deceived scores high. You might or mightn’t relate with the motives of the villain, but at no stage does it feel that the villain is a dud. The villain drives the plot. The rest, including Allison, all have their agencies but they are superseded by the villain. The bit-by-bit deconstruction of Allison’s fragile world is one of the most fascinating things in the book, something that should get better with each reread.
The biggest grouse there is how unbelievably stupid Allison is. Some of the things that she does in the book look stupid even in their conception. The numerous lunches, opulent clothing and Allison’s overflowing love for her dog felt indulgent and superfluous to the core story. Some of that could have been left out.
As for the setting of the book, I kept trying to figure out where it was, for almost 80% of the duration. The town is called Dewar, and while I haven’t googled where that is, we are told a number of times that Steve, the journalist from the synopsis, has arrived there “all the way from the states.” Now where is the states? I have no idea, except maybe the United States. That should place Dewar in another country, right? The thing is, the paper for which Steve works is read in Dewar, as also in the states. And the emergency number is 911 for the town. I felt I should rather focus on the plot than trying to be the sleuth myself.
The characters are all super-rich and each girl is extravagantly beautiful. A bit off, but I think it is the author’s prerogative. She’s created these characters and she has every right to sculpt them as she sees fit.
Interestingly, there are numerous references to popular television series and books. Game of Thrones, Prison Break, Friends, Dune and The Shining, among others. And then there are the nods and homages to the author’s own favourite, Stephen King. Something or the other keeps cropping up that reminds you of him or his works. I’d rather not spoil that, though. The similar names of the characters – Elli and Allison, Steve and Stephen, Danny and Donny, don’t look accidental either, as Sona (over at Writenlive) said to me.
There are some loose threads that were either written into the book as red herrings or were left for a possible second part. I don’t know whether this one was planned as the first part of a series but the climax leaves plenty of scope for the author to do that. A word that the author uses quite a few times for the killer(s) finds reference in the title of her forthcoming book.
Verdict: Final word? Deceived succeeds in positively deceiving the reader. If you are looking for a book that gives you the chills, Deceived is a recommended read. For a debut work, the book has a huge amount of research and a compelling villain, things which promise that the author is only going to go from strength to strength in her career.
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Revenge Thriller, Mystery, Crime, Suspense.
Let’s discuss the book and this review in the comments section. Share your thoughts.
Thanks for reading.