Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nancy Werlin: My New Favorite

I just finished reading The Killer's Cousin and Locked Inside by Nancy Werlin, and she just may be the new author whose entire bibliography I must consume immediately.

The Killer's Cousin opens as David, who has just been acquitted of murdering his girlfriend, moves to Cambridge, MA for a fresh start with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Lily.  The move is ostensibly to give him a fresh start, but David is still wracked with guilt over his girlfriend's death.  On top of that, his cousin Lily seems to hate him, and by the end of the novel has escalated into full on Bad Seed/Good Son/Orphan crazy-child behavior.  But then the novel takes an unexpected turn and, rather than falling back on schlocky cliches, becomes about redemption and the power of love and forgiveness.

Locked Inside has some of the same themes, but Marnie, the main character, is someone who chooses to be an outsider, as opposed to David, who becomes one after a horrendous incident.  Marnie's mother was a famous gospel singer turned self-help guru, who was only ever really close with her daughter.  Marnie is still not over her mother's death in a plane crash, and she systematically pushes away everyone who tries to get close to her, with the exception of Elf, her nemesis in an online RPG.  When Marnie is kidnapped and locked in a basement, she is forced to face some harsh truths about her mother and about herself.

Werlin's prose is as tight as her plotting, with no stray words or threads to hamper her novels as they hurtle forward toward their conclusions.  But the real secret weapon of these novels is the characters, who are so fully drawn and wonderful that even in their worst moments they are a pleasure to spend time with and, at the end of the novel, difficult to let go of.

Nancy Werlin's two newest books are fantasy, and I absolutely cannot wait to read them.

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