Eleven Hours by Paullina Simons
Having read 'Red Leaves' I felt quite desperate to read another novel by Paullina Simons, honestly some books are just like catching up with old friends! First off, can I just take the time to praise these particular set of book covers. I have the editions that were first published and they are very striking with a woman's face dominating half of the cover, which made them stand out on their shelf if they were 'face-out' in the bookshop. This would also lead to an edition of Bookseller Bingo, where we would put the cover alongside another book cover to make up a new face. You have to remember we had to keep ourselves entertained somehow!
Didi is 9 months pregnant and due to give birth in 2 weeks time. Whilst out shopping one day in a shopping mall in Dallas, a man offers to carry her bags back to her car. But something feels 'off' about him and she politely refuses. Stepping out of the mall into the Texas heat, she is confronted by the same man and kidnapped. Didi must work out how to stay alive with the increasingly unstable Lyle. Meanwhile Didi's husband, realising something is drastically wrong when Didi doesn't show up for their lunch date, partners with FBI agent Scott to try and track them down. But is Scott more obsessed by Lyle than getting Didi out safe.
Well, wow! this is a rollercoaster ride like no other. The novel takes place over 11 hours, which adds to the ever-growing tension as we observe real time events. So, we can witness Didi's fight to keep her and her unborn baby alive, at the same time as we see Rich and Scott's trail, and we see the aftermath as Lyle's behaviour becomes more terrifying. The book is quite harrowing, especially as we have the unravelling of Lyle, who is all points sinister and unstable. At times, he is not straightforward at all and the author leads us to feel a glimmer of sympathy for him, before his actions demonstrate what a sociopath he really is. You will Didi to survive.
Didi, herself, is a tour de force. She is not written as an ass-kicking, wise cracking hero., but a normal, pregnant, terrified woman and she behaves exactly as any person would behave looking for a way out, second guessing herself and missing opportunities. By this point, however, Lyle is so unhinged it is impossible to predict how he would have responded.
Simultaneously we witness FBI procedure which is fascinating. Scott is again an interesting character and it is testament that Paullina Simons manages to make him so engaging, given that there is an eleven hour period in which to get to know him. He is casual, yet focused. but focused on the statistics rather than the human aspect. At times, he appears incompetent, at others, brilliant and it is up to Rich to remind him what is truly at stake here.
This novel is a true jangler for the nerves. The tension does now let up once and we are very quickly into the heart of action almost immediately. The pacing is super-fast and once again I found myself staying up late to catch just one more chapter. Lyle is a brutal, unhinged, just plain wrong character and as a reader we feel wrong footed by him every step of the way - not your typical 'black-hat' character. But it is the honesty of the writing around Didi that shines. I genuinely felt like I was reading a very raw, very real kidnap experience here.
I've very much enjoyed re-reading this novel and the white knuckle ride that it is. The novel is VERY different from Red Leaves. Now I do need to read something a little calmer for my nerves....and possibly drink a lot of camomile tea.