My introduction to new author Noelle West Ihli was through a BookBub deal for her first novel, THE THICKET. I had no expectations; I’ve read a lot of new authors, some better than others, but the premise of her debut intrigued me. A haunted house attraction has drawn quite a crowd from the community – lots of young people, including Norah, the main character, who was roped into dragging her younger, horror obscessed brother to visit it. She’s upset. She wants to be with her friends, and more specifically, with the young man she likes and wants to hang out with.
When her brother is taking too long to get through the attraction, Norah moves on to wait for him outside. Except he never comes out. But someone does – a killer who murdered her brother while everyone thinks it is part of the show. The question is, will he (or she) strike again?
Cool premise for a novel, and Ihli pulls it off beautifully. Her plotting and her prose kept me in the story, and I felt connected to all the characters and wanted to find out what would happen to them. The tension escalates throughout the book, and it resolves in a satisfactory manner.
My review on Amazon said that I couldn’t wait to read Ihli’s next novel, and lo and behold, here it is. ASK FOR ANDREA is a unique story, again about a serial killer, but really about his victims. And here’s the catch: it’s about them after they are dead! The story follows the murders and the subsequent “existence” of three victims of a killer who uses a dating service to attract his victims.
That existence is incredibly interesting, in my opinion. I mean, in some ways it’s a very mundane existence. After all, they can’t do much beyond making lights flicker or a computer fritz out. But as the story progresses, we are treated to the tale of what they experience as they follow their respective paths, and how they do influence the resolution of the story.
The title, “Ask For Andrea,” refers to a sign in a bar that alerts women to a service that will help them if they are in an abusive or unsafe situation, to help them extirpate themselves from the situation if necessary. It is one of the first things that one of the victims (Meghan, I think, if I recall correctly, but maybe it was Brecia) notices on her meet-up with the killer. But she doesn’t use it; instead she ends up as a victim. Still, it ends up being an apt title for the novel, and I will let you discover why.
Like her debut, Ihli’s sophomore effort is well-written and carefully plotted, and her characters are masterfully drawn. Plus, she gets extra points for these inventive, original tales.
Like my Amazon review said, I can’t wait for her next one.