By Carolyn Lee Adams
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: July 14th, 2015
A spine-tingling debut about the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse in reverse as a teen struggles to retain hope—and her sanity—while on the run from a cunning and determined killer.
Ruth Carver has always competed like her life depends on it. Ambitious. Tough. Maybe even mean. It’s no wonder people call her Ruthless.
When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup trick, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose.
At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before.
The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decides just how far she’ll go in order to survive.
Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were.
My first thought on how to describe this book is this: Criminal Minds from the victim’s perspective. We meet Ruth soon after she has been kidnapped by creepy Wolfman, a man she has seen before, who used to work for her father on her family’s ranch. After her first attempt to escape is thwarted, Ruth takes her chance to escape into the Blue Ridge mountains, naked and vulnerable, but determined to survive. Ruth’s fight and ruthlessness, drive her to beat her predator at his own game and get back to her loved ones alive.
Ruth could have easily been a dislikable character, with her prickly, sometimes bitchy, personality. But these personality traits, that desire to win, to survive, to beat her captor at his own game, are what made me love her as a character. She was feisty and clever, and her pain, both inside and out, during her trek for survival was palpable. The flashbacks to her life before her kidnapping painted a vivid picture of how she was molded into the girl she is now, through a potent mixture of parental and self pressure to do her best, to win it all. Even though she could have easily been written as selfish and stuck-up and an unreasonable bitch, Ruth’s love for her family, her friend, who could be more than a friend, Caleb, and her horse Tucker and her love of riding and horses in general, made her redeemable and relatable.
The villain, Wolfman, or Jerry T Balls, was excellent. He was unrelenting in his search for Ruth after her escape and his interactions with Ruth, his cold confidence that he his actions were right, left me with a combination of chills and an urge to defend myself, along with Ruth, from him and his dastardly machinations. The flashbacks to his life were scary in and of themselves as you could see what shaped him into the monster he became and were even let inside of his head to see is broken thought process. The book, in its synopsis, describes the chase that takes place as cat-and-mouse, but to me, with the villain being called Wolfman, it brought to mind a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. A girl in the woods, trying to return to her family, being hunted by a wolf who wants degrade and kill her and make her disappear forever. It felt like a twisted, well, more twisted, version of the Grimm fairytale.
The writing was fantastic, it was very much present tense, even in the flashbacks, lending to the feeling of urgency and immediacy that punctuated every word. Ruth’s mental status was also very clearly painted as the longer she spent trying to save herself, the longer she was exposed to the elements, the terror of being hunted, of what being caught would mean, the more she lost touch with reality. She hallucinates, she talks to herself, her surroundings, the moon, but she still pushes through. She pushes through the pain and the fear, and fully accesses that portion of the human psyche that is one’s will to survive.
I give this book four stars because I think it was cut short. It’s potential wasn’t fully met. The ending was going really, really well until it, well, ended. The book just stops in what I feel was an abrupt manner. There is not much resolution, not much of Ruth coming to terms with what happened to her in a safe, controlled environment. I would have loved to see, even in a brief glimpse, how Ruth was coping with her life post-kidnap. How she, and those around her, were healing and moving on. And, also, if anything happened to those nasty Logans. However, it just ends with a rather frustratingly short conversation between Ruth and Caleb, and Caleb making a rather annoying comment about how Ruth is now going to be better. That line nagged at me, and after reading it as him stating that she would be a better person, that she wasn’t already good enough as is, I chose to read it as a poorly worded way of saying she would beat her situation, she would get better and be well and feel safe again, in spite of what she has been through.
This book, despite the ending, was a strong debut from an author I am going to keep an eye on. I feel that I need to mention, though, that there are mentions of rape in the book that might be uncomfortable for some readers. Just an FYI.
About the author:
Carolyn Lee Adams is originally from the Seattle area, breeding ground of serial killers and those who write about them. She attended USC Film School and graduated with a BFA in screenwriting. RUTHLESS (Simon Pulse, Summer 2015) is her first novel. When she isn’t exploring the dark side of human nature in her writing, you’ll find her on stage as a stand-up comedian. Because those things go together.
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Disclaimer: Thank you to Fantastic Flying Book Club for providing the synopsis, cover photo, author information, and more. None of these belong to us. The eARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.