Book Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

16158525Title: The Never List

Author: Koethi Zan

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 2,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

The most relentless, deeply disturbing thriller writer since Jeffery Deaver and Gillian Flynn

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan’s debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Watson.

The opening chapters of this book were amazing, dark, horrifying and terrible. Like in any good psychological thriller, the terror is in what isn’t said, as opposed to what is said. Best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept a “Never List” for years. These were actions all to be avoided at all costs, to keep themselves safe. One night, against all rules of the Never List, they accept a cab ribe that has terrible consequences. For the next three years they’re held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a man who torments them both physically and emotionally.

First of all, I found it heartbreaking that it was those two girls, who always kept a list of strict rules, who were eventually kidnapped. This is actually an evil thought for me. Why would it be less horrible if a party girl who never cared about consequences was kidnapped and tortured than Sarah and Jennifer? I have no idea, but that’s how I felt – and it’s a horrible thought to feel that way. Secondly, my stomach almost turned inside out when I read about Jennifer’s fate, and the other girl’s reaction to it. The other girls in the cellar were relieved to have Sarah and Jennifer join them, because days before their tormenter had left a box in the cellar, and they’d grown afraid one of them would have to go inside the box. When it turned out it was Jennifer, they were relieved.

It’s a horrifying, but all too human thought to be relieved when someone else is tortured instead of yourself. I could relate to the girls stuck in the dungeon. What happened to Jennifer was horrible, and the descriptions of the box, the feelings of the main character when she saw her friend locked up inside, all made me feel nauseous. Then as the story progresses, we get descriptions of the horror the tormenter put them through, and this put my stomach on edge as well.

However, whereas the first part of the novel is unbelievably strong in a raw, emotional way, the second part falls flat. Apparently the person responsible isn’t done tormenting them yet, and he’s enlisted the help of others to confront Sarah and the other girls with their past and lure them back into the mansion where he tortured them. There’s a blatant Deus Ex Machina moment when one of the women shows up just in time to save Sarah and the others. Right.

Then, at the end there’s a big reveal I saw coming from miles away and doesn’t rank highly in terms of originality. The book definitely goes for a big reveal and climatic ending, but definitely falls short.

All in all, the book started out strong, had a mediocre middle and a low ending. It’s all right if you’re in the mood for a thriller, I guess, but if the book had stayed strong, it would’ve definitely been exceptional. Now I’m a little disappointed.


  1. Thanks for an informative review that shaped my decision to not read this book. I love thrillers and mysteries but in some books the cringe factor is raised by detailed torture scenes, and I know my limits. So I understand that this book is well-written, popular and has its exceptional moments. But for me, in my opinion only, it’s a pass.

  2. I actually really enjoyed it. I didn’t see the ending coming and while things do get a bit slow halfway through the story, for me the ending (and the first half of the book) definitely made up for it. 🙂

  3. I agree with you 100%! I was so thrilled by the thought of this book, however like you said, started out fantastic and went downhill from there. Made me very sad to say, I gave it 2 stars and I don’t think I have ever given that low of a rating before.

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