4 out of 4 stars
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Australian writer Diana Hockley wastes no time setting the scene for terror in the first few pages of her book, The Naked Room. Ally Carpenter is a young, renowned pianist currently working in Brisbane. She spends the night out with friends to celebrate her feature in an upcoming concert series. One minute she is at a nightclub, and the next she awakens hurt and trapped in an unknown room with no recollection of how she got there. She is soon told by her captors that she will be released when her father pays her ransom fee. Ally must deal with the psychological repercussions of not only being kidnapped, but also come to terms with the fact that the father whom she was told died before her birth, is still very much alive. When two of Ally's friends turn up dead, it quickly becomes evident that this is a professional kidnapping job possibly involving someone very close to Ally.
The book centers around the investigation of the disappearance of Ally, which is led by Detective Senior Sergeant Susan Prescott; a character who is featured in several other books written by Hockley. What immediately struck me about Prescott was her no-nonsense perspective regarding opinions of female victims. When everyone else first assumes that Ally must have just run off for a bit with a boyfriend, Prescott swiftly shuts this line of thinking down and points out that no one would ever jump to the same conclusion had it been a man that went missing. This seems like such an inconsequential detail, yet it is one that I've never heard voiced before regarding differences in male and female victims. With as many thrillers as I've read, it's refreshing to come across a new idea. This one small detail of refusing to go along with the theory that Ally was just being a "flighty girl", resonated with me and set the ball rolling in my affection for her.
Hockley moves the plot along by telling the story from not only Ally's perspective, but also from the viewpoint of her closest friends and family. Occasionally I got a little bogged down by the constant switching of points of view and keeping up with all of the characters, but overall it served the story well. I don't think the book would have been nearly as interesting if only told by Ally. Even though some of the characters are unlikable, by writing in the first person through them the author managed to make me care about them. It also gives unique insight into what ultimately led to their own possible involvement in Ally's disappearance.
This is the first Australian-based book I've read where I felt the setting was actually more like an additional character in the book. There were many expressions used that even when I wasn't sure what they meant, still felt unendingly charming and added just that little something extra to the scene. This could also just be due to the talent Hockley seems to have for description. She manages to take phrases we've read time and time again and present them in a fresh way. For example, instead of saying my heart is pounding out of my chest, she writes "an elf in my chest is pounding away at my heart with a hammer". This vivid imagery actually stopped me in my tracks a couple times.
I give this book 4 out of 4 stars. The characters are well-developed and the swift, smooth pace of the book makes it very easy to get wrapped in. The ending is tied up nicely and keeps me wanting me know more about where Detective Prescott will go from here. I love that I was kept on my toes to see things from perspectives I never would have considered before. Hockey's skillful use of language makes it a pleasure to read and all lovers of thrillers will enjoy this book.
The Naked Room
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