Richard Parker – Scare Me

richardparker-scareme“When did you last google yourself?”

Wealthy businessman, Will Frost, gets woken in the middle of the night by an anonymous caller, asking him exactly this.

When Will goes online, he finds a website has been set up in his name, showing photographs of the inside of his home, along with photographs of six houses he’s never seen before.

In the first of these strange houses, a gruesome murder has already taken place.

Will is then told that his own family is in mortal danger.

The only way he can keep them safe is to visit each of the houses on the website in person – before the police discover what has happened there.

Seven houses.

Seven gruesome homicides.

Seven chances to save his daughter’s life…

As Exhibit A’s first signed title and as one of the launch titles for the imprint, Richard Parker’s Scare Me already had some major expectations attached to it. When the news broke in March that the film rights for Scare Me had been acquired by Relativity Media – the people behind Despicable Me, The Social Network, and Paul, to name a few – and they’d contracted Wentworth Miller – he of Prison Break fame – to write the script, expectations, well my expectations anyway, sky-rocketed. So did Scare Me take flight or did it crash and burn? It definitely soared and it flew by too, because it was nail-bitingly good and I had to keep reading to see how it would end. As Scare Me is so much a mystery thriller where the discovery of the how and why of the events is so central to the plot, it’s hard to talk about it without going into spoiler territory. I’m going to try and avoid spoilers though, so if I’m coming off as vague forgive me, but I’m trying not to mess up anyone’s experience with the book.

The book starts out with a bang as we witness someone called Poppy getting ready for what seems to be a web cam date, but which ends up to be a blood bath. Afterwards it continues calmly enough, introducing us to our main characters, Will and Carla Frost. Successful business people, proud parents of teenage daughter Libby, they seem to have the perfect life. However, their perfect life has been marred in the recent past by the loss of an unborn child, a daughter named Jessie, and they are still struggling to give this loss a place, when their life is turned upside-down once again, by a midnight phone call; a phone call where Will is asked: “When did you last google yourself?” From the moment Will gets up to google himself the book turns into a non-stop action story, where Will is constantly kept on the go by the people who’ve kidnapped Libby during her Thailand vacation. The book is brutal; the suspense is heart-thumping and some of the scenes are incredibly scary and claustrophobic. Some of the murders are grizzly and they’re all horrible.

Beyond Will and Carla’s points of view, we also get points of view from the killer, from Libby, from two American journalists, Weaver and Pope, who discover the website through which Will receives his instructions, and from Tam, a young Thai boy, who witnesses what he shouldn’t have and so becomes part of this dangerous game. Because to the killer it is most definitely a game, albeit a cruel and bloody one, of cat-and-mouse. While these point-of-view characters are the only ones we really get to know, beyond names and description that is, and Will and Carla are the only ones we get to know really well, we do learn enough about the other three to come to care for them in the case of Tam and Libby, and be horrified at how disturbed a person can become in the case of the killer. All six, Weaver isn’t given that much background, of them are given believable motivations and histories, though Will and Carla’s are the most extensive. Parker succeeds in getting the reader invested in his protagonists and to make them believe the emotions the characters feel. In some ways Tam’s storyline feels superfluous, he could have easily been left out. On the other hand he’s vital for giving us an extra set of eyes on Libby and to set up the ending of the book. Similarly, Weaver and Pope are an extra set of eyes on the ground, who can give an outside perspective on what happens.

The plot is very well-done, littered with red herrings, which made me change my theory on what was happening a couple of times. In addition, Parker’s writing is very vivid and visual; it’s easy to see why film producers would be attracted to the book. He’s not only able to evoke emotions clearly, he also imbues his writing with a sense of place, which makes the story feel grounded and despite all the plane-hopping I never lost sight of where we were on the planet. He also had me genuinely frightened for some of the characters at different points, thinking they’d come to harm. The story comes together back where it a started, at the Frost estate, in a crescendo of tension, drama and a tragic revelation, only to be followed by a satisfying, deliciously creepy end.

Together with its launch sister Penance, Richard Parker’s Scare Me is a great promise of Exhibit A’s future editorial choices and luckily they were wise enough to sign Richard Parker for two books, so we can look forward to another book from him next year. If you’re looking for a fast, thrilling read Scare Me is a perfect choice. Just be sure to block out enough time to finish it in one sitting as you won’t want to put it down.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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