Written by James Sallis — Jenny Rowan is a survivor. At a young age she was abducted and kept in a box for two years by a paedophile. He’d push the box under his bed, getting it out now and again to feed her ice cream sundaes and/or abuse her. One day, she escaped and managed to survive for a further 18 months in a huge shopping mall, eating out of the bins, using the rest rooms, and avoiding the security guards. Spotted and dubbed Mall Girl, she became the subject of an urban legend and a major news story. When she was eventually caught, she couldn’t remember her surname or her parents and was put into care.
She grew up to become Jenny Rowan, not just a survivor, but a very successful video editor at a local TV station. And it’s Jenny who narrates the tale of her bizarre background, and her current existence in an unnamed American city. Jenny has pulled herself up by her bootstraps, worked her way to total independence, and although she has no family, she has a half-decent education behind her. Despite how well grounded she seems, she does feel consciously detached. It must be down to what she’s been through.
When Detective Jack Collins comes calling, she soon makes note of his handsome blue eyes. Collins wants Jenny to reach out to a woman who was the victim of similar crimes to the ones Jenny faced all those years ago. Cheryl too was held captive and badly treated. At first, she won’t open up. But things get worse for Cheryl and later in the book she’s raped at the very facility where she’s meant to be recovering. Jenny’s just about the only person Cheryl knows, so she’s called out and Jenny ends up taking her in. They share Jenny’s apartment and like Jenny, Cheryl starts afresh.
All the while, in the background, America is facing a political crisis. The female vice president’s son has been kidnapped. Plus, the country is involved in an unspecified war and someone has tried to fly a plane into the White House 9/11-style. Jenny’s expert skills as she edits stories about the vice president somehow draw her closer to the vice president’s story than might be wise, and she ends up doing some remarkable things.
Although the cover of Others of My Kind reminds you that Sallis is the author of Drive (and you can read our review of its sequel, Driven, here) do not expect the kind of high octane spills, thrills and violence of that book, or the film adaptation of the same name. This is a subtle, nuanced story where the crimes and their repercussions play a secondary role. What we learn about here is Jenny Rowan and her sense of alienation and dislocation in a country that’s tilting one way and then another. It’s not just how she deals with the damage, it’s how she watches others coping with the same issues. As ever, Sallis is poetic and philosophical in equal measure, the descriptions are tight, yet lucid.
Thriller fans will certainly want a dose more action and those who love mysteries will probably feel hungry for plenty more suspense. Nevertheless, the writing is absorbing and you will be sitting there wondering just what – if anything – is going to happen.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars