By Lucy Christopher

Publisher/Year: Text Publishing/2022

Publisher’s blurb

Ten years ago, sixteen-year-old Gemma Toombs was kidnapped from Bangkok Airport by an infatuated drifter, Tyler MacFarlane, who took her to a secret den in the Australian desert. Now her name is Kate Stone and it’s her turn to confront Ty and try to find answers to the questions that have obsessed her since her ordeal. What is the legacy of this coercive relationship? Who holds the cards now? In the confusion of past and present, will Kate remain trapped in a deranged dance of desire and revenge? Or will she regain control and find release?

Set in both London and Perth, a courtroom drama and a road trip in the searing heat of the West Australian desert, Release is the story of two people confronting each other, each intent on destruction and survival. A companion to Lucy Christopher’s bestselling novel Stolen, this gripping psychological thriller explores a young woman’s discovery of the complicated truth about a relationship that once seemed alluring.

For readers of Gillian Flynn, S.J. Watson and Helen Fitzgerald.

Reviewer: Christina Lee

I love an unreliable narrator, and in Release we have one to remember. Kate (formerly Gemma) is a complex and interesting fantasist. The official back story is that she was kidnapped, as an innocent sixteen-year-old, by an obsessed stalker, and has struggled in the ten years since then to regain her confidence and capacity to lead a normal life. But it’s much more complicated than that, and one of the many unanswered questions in the book is just how unwilling she had actually been to go off with a handsome stranger in the first place. Her continuing obsession with the kidnapper, Ty, is interpreted as Stockholm Syndrome by her two well-meaning but clueless supporters, her mother and her therapist. But it’s much more complicated than that, and when she meets him again their intense relationship plays out in strange and terrible ways.

Ty, just as sociopathic and narcissistic as Kate, and an equally damaged person, does seem to have a slightly stronger grasp of reality than she does. But how it all transpires, and whether she finds love or revenge or some weird combination of both, would require too many spoilers to explain in a review. Satisfyingly, by the end of the book, the reader still has no real idea what has actually happened. How much of what Kate tells us is true, how much is self-serving lies, how much is delusion? I love the fact that I’ll never know.

Lucy Christopher has won awards for her previous YA work, and this, her first novel for adults, showcases her writing talents very clearly. Much is left tantalisingly unresolved in this gripping thriller, and the two central characters will stay with me for a long time. Her capacity to create characters who are at once ghastly and engaging is truly impressive.

An excellent read, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns.