Oh boy, where to begin with this one.
On a crisp autumn evening, art teacher Mia is kidnapped by Colin, a low level criminal. He is supposed to hand her over to a notorious gangster who plans on using Mia to demand ransom from her influential lawyer dad. But Colin knows the gangster, knows what’ll happen to Mia, and impulsively decides to take Mia away himself. He takes her to an abandoned cabin in the woods where they settle in for the winter. As Colin tries to figure out what to do with Mia, they begin to bond.
Because Stockholm Syndrome is mad sexy, y’all.
The novel is told in ‘before’ and ‘after’ Mia returns home, as her mother Eve struggles to discover what has happened to her daughter. Mia suffers from memory loss, has no idea what has happened to her and thinks her name is Cloë, for some reason. That part – the before/after puzzle – is actually remarkably well done, dropping clues left and right until it ties up neatly at the end.
Unfortunately the author felt it was necessary to tack on a final plot twist that is so deeply stupid that words fail to describe it. It is a Donald Trump on coke level of stupid. Dumber than a bag of cracked bricks left out in the sun. Dumber than melted popsicle. It’s DUMB. It makes no sense, it’s logically inconsistent, narratively perplexing, out of character.
But that’s just one problem the novel has. The other one is that Stockholm Syndrome is not sexy. Not at all. Because of course Mia and Colin end up bonding, he learns to see her as a person, she sees the good in him, yada yada yada, they do teh sex thing. Look, I get that it’s a common romance trope, I don’t begrudge anyone their guilty pleasures, but I didn’t enjoy it. Kubica, linguistically, is not a bad writer. She knows how to use words, build sentences, build tension. It’s the dubious choices she makes with those skills that bug me.
Take memory loss, another common trope. My problem here is not that it’s used at all, but that it’s used so obviously. Memory loss is common after traumatic incidents, but not the way Kubica seems to think it does (or wants it to do). It’s all too convenient: Mia remembers all the parts that don’t matter but none of the parts that do. Things come back to her at the point the story needs them to. It could have been so well done; instead it’s turned into a cheap toy.
As for the characters, they’re paper thin. Mia has a bit of personality but is equally offensive as the white saviour who rejects her privileged upbringing and instead deigns to teach scum from the projects (she teaches art. Everyone loves her). Colin is your average criminal-with-a-heart-of-gold type of cliché. Eve, Mia’s mother, is a nervous wreck and pretty much stays that way. She’s also maddeningly subservient to Mia’s father, who has the depth and versatility of a cocktail napkin. He’s like someone sketched a villain and forgot to colour it in. He has no redeeming features, which is one thing, but he also lacks conviction. He’s a stooge, nothing more, and therefore unconvincing and uninteresting (he’s also very predictable).
I’ll give this book one extra star because I did enjoy reading it somewhat (at least until I got to the ending), but there is so much stupid in this book that it’s not worth anything more than that. I’ve actually read and enjoyed Kubica’s books before so I know she can do better, but why this one out of all her books is so well liked is beyond me. She’s not half bad, so do try her. Just skip this one.