My novel, The Never List, tells the story of Sarah Farber, a thirty-one year old woman who was abducted in her teens. Now, ten years later, she is struggling to recover from the trauma of her past, when she is drawn back into it to solve the mystery of her best friend’s death. The ‘detective’ character in my book, therefore, is also the victim, a choice I made because of my own fascination with a certain aspect of crime fiction.
I’ve been an avid reader of crime fiction for decades and have often wondered why I love it so much. Of course, I enjoy the suspense and the technical procedural elements. How did the criminal commit the crime? How did he or she hide the evidence? Will they get away with it? The complex logic of the crime genre engages, stimulates and satisfies the intellect.
But for me there’s also something deeply emotional about it. In looking at the crime fiction I choose to read, I notice I have a predilection for dark psychological works—books that delve into subject matters that are almost too horrible to process. I don’t think it’s because I have a perverse, voyeuristic sensibility. Rather, I believe it’s because I need to know why such atrocities happen. I want to understand the psychological dimensions of criminal behaviour: how could anyone do this and why would they do this? Is it mental illness, evil, or a personality disorder? Does it derive from anger, revenge, or insecurity? What drove them to it: society, their parents, impossible circumstances, or uncontrollable urges?
But the flip side of that question for me is: how can victims ever get over such terrible trauma? I want to know how they survive, how they live with the memories of the past, how they pick up the pieces and move on.
And then, at some point, I realized these two questions dovetail. To recover from trauma, victims need to know why. But the sad truth is: there often isn’t an answer—that’s the unfortunate but most penetrating mystery at the heart of the most awful crimes—and a successful survivor must in some way make peace with that.
That’s why I wanted my heroine to be a victim who has lived through the worst situation, and as she tries to recover, her search, whether she realizes it or not, must inevitably be about why it happened to her. So, yes, Sarah Farber is trying to solve a crime and prove what took place all those years ago. But to do so, she’s forced to go back into her own past, to confront it and herself, to find that answer, or for a way of living in a world where there may not be one.
The Never List is published by Vintage