Harriet Waugh

The hunter hunted

Abbie Devereaux, the heroine of Land of the Living, finds herself hooded and bound and a prisoner of a man who is just a whispering voice. She has a violent headache and cannot remember anything about how she has come to be lying on concrete in this damp, smelly place, or even anything leading up to her present situation. The man, who feeds her four spoonfuls of bland gluck daily and pulls down her trousers and puts her shuffling, hand-cuffed body onto a bucket once a day for her to relieve herself, smells of onions and dirt. He makes it plain that once she is sufficiently broken he will kill her. He does not rape or fondle her.

We have all been there in fiction too many times before. Luckily for us, Abbie escapes and the rest of the novel begins. It is not until her escape that we learn anything much about her, and what we learn comes slowly. Abbie lies in hospital. Her friends and her boyfriend do not come to see her. She rings her parents, but in the face of their self-regard fails to tell them of her ordeal. The police, initially sympathetic, become wary after interviewing her boss, her friends and her boyfriend. The psychiatrist thinks she is a hysterical fantasist. When a furious Abbie storms out of the hospital and goes to see her friends, boss and boyfriend she begins to understand their scepticism. In those missing days before she was kidnapped she had been behaving with uncharacteristic brio. She also discovers she has had unprotected sex with someone who was not her boyfriend. She is terrified by the void in her life and the possibility that the unknown man might still be after her.

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