About the Book:
The USA Today bestselling and Edgar Award–winning author of Never Look Back and If I Die Tonight plumbs the dark side of justice and the depths of diabolical revenge in this propulsive novel of psychological suspense that melds the driving narrative of Then She Was Gone with the breathtaking twists of The Chain and the violent fury of Kill Bill
Just how far will a grieving mother go to right a tragic wrong?
Camille Gardener is a grieving—and angry—mother who, five years after her daughter’s death, is still obsessed with the privileged young man she believes to be responsible.
When her rash actions draw the attention of a secret group of women—the collective— Camille is drawn into a dark web where these mothers share their wildly different stories of loss as well as their desire for justice in a world where privilege denies accountability. Fueled by mutual rage, the collective members devise and act out retribution fantasies via precise, anonymous, highly coordinated revenge killings.
As Camille struggles to comprehend whether this is a role-playing exercise or terrifying reality, she must decide if these women are truly avenging angels or monsters. Becoming more deeply enmeshed in the group, Camille learns truths about the collective—and about herself—that she may not be able to survive.
“You know how certain people with missing limbs say that it hurts even more after the amputation? That’s what it’s like for some of us who lose children. There’s nothing you can do to make that pain go away and you know that. It’ll just get worse and worse until you can’t feel anything at all.”
This was my first book by Alison Gaylin and she did a masterful job at building and sustaining the suspense throughout this fabulous thriller. When we meet Camille, she is causing a scene at an awards ceremony for a young man who raped and killed her teenage daughter Emily. He was exonerated at trial, and Camille has lived with the crushing weight of Emily’s brutal death ever since. The murder led to the break-up of her marriage, and the only positive was that Camille had Emily’s organs donated after her death. Luke, the recipient of Emily’s heart, has now become a close friend and confidante of Camille.
Camille is arrested after her outburst at the awards ceremony and eventually learns via someone who approaches her that there is a group for grieving mothers like her. The group is called “Niobe”, which refers to the wife of a king from Green mythology who grieves her lost children. Maybe this group can offer some solace or advice to Camille, especially since Camille’s therapist passed away and Camille is no longer seeking professional help.
I was already hooked at this point, and the narration by Vivienne Leheny added just the right touch of depth, maturity and believability to Camille’s character. I could not wait to see what would happen next and whether Camille would find some peace. When Camille is led to another group of grieving mothers on the Dark Web, she realizes that she might finally have found a group who understands her thirst for revenge and justice for her daughter’s murder.
Camille admits to this group, called the Collective, that she will never be able to forgive her daughter’s killer. She is then given her first assignment by this secret group, and she completes it without question. The rules are simple but unwavering: no real names, and no questioning of anything she is asked to do by the Collective.
In return for her completing the tasks assigned to her, Camille is told that the Collective will “take care” of Harrison, the man who raped her daughter. As Camille is led into darker and more dangerous assignments, she realizes that the Collective is far more powerful and omnipresent than she first thought. She becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about the identity of the ringleader of the Collective, but her obsession might lead to her downfall.
There are some absolutely terrific twists and turns in this intense psychological thriller. The desire for revenge is a powerful human emotion that the author explores very artfully here. The ending is a real shocker and I had to rewind the last few minutes of the audiobook to make sure I heard correctly. Highly recommend!