The terrible truth about Manderley is that someone is always watching. Read more...
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The terrible truth about Manderley is that someone is always watching.
Manderley Resort is a gleaming, new twenty-story hotel on the California coast. It's about to open its doors, and the world--at least those with the means to afford it--will be welcomed into a palace of opulence and unparalleled security. But someone is determined that Manderley will never open. The staff has no idea that their every move is being watched, and over the next twelve hours they will be killed off, one by one.
Writing in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, and with a deep bow to Daphne du Maurier, author Gina Wohlsdorf pairs narrative ingenuity and razor-wire prose with quick twists, sharp turns, and gasp-inducing terror. Security is grand guignol storytelling at its very best.
A shocking thriller, a brilliant narrative puzzle, and a multifaceted love story unlike any other, Security marks the debut of a fearless and gifted writer.
"Be surprised, be very surprised: Gina Wohlsdorf brings more than just plot twists and a terrifically tender love story to this thriller . . . It's her playful homage to Hitchcock and du Maurier that had me reading, howling, and just plain loving this novel." --Sara Gruen, author of At the Water's Edge
"Grand Hotel meets Psycho in the age of surveillance . . . Security is cinematically vivid, crisply written, and sharp enough to cut . . . Wohlsdorf brilliantly subverts our expectations of the action genre in this smart, shocking, poignant thriller." --Emily Croy Barker, author of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
"The thrill of this novel goes beyond its wickedly clever, split-screen, high-tech wizardry--a kind of video gamer's literary retake of Hitchcock's Rear Window--and emanates from its strange, disembodied narrator . . . The effect is terrifying, sexy, dizzying, and impossible to look away from." --Tim Johnston, author of Descent
"Shocking and filled with Tarantino-ish dark humor. . . Structurally reminiscent of the amazing Jennifer Egan, Wohlsdorf's book is certainly a hybrid, like nothing else. Get ready." --Ann Beattie, author of The State We're In
"Flawless . . . Security is perfectly tuned for blockbuster status . . . They don't make a hotel big enough to house all the people who will want to read this, and soon, as in Manderley, all eyes will be on Wohlsdorf." --Daniel Kraus, Booklist, starred review
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-04-18
- Reviewer: Staff
At the start of Wohlsdorf’s stellar debut, property manager Tessa is sweating the small stuff at the new Manderley Resort, fretting over which place settings to deploy at the upcoming opening gala. She’s unaware that certain uninvited guests are about to turn the opulent Santa Barbara, Calif., Shangri-La—which has been flogging its state-of-the-art security—into an abattoir. Meanwhile, Tessa’s foster brother and former heartthrob, motocross legend Brian Domini, reappears after 11 years of estrangement. As the Ducati-swift plot accelerates from there, told through a mosaic of views from various Manderley security cameras (as seen by an initially unidentified narrator), it’s a testament to Wohlsdorf’s skill that she successfully negotiates the numerous tonal shifts between the unfolding Grand Guignol splatterfest and Tessa and Brian’s rekindling passion. Readers will gradually discover an even more emotionally affecting story as the action races to the moving climax. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (June)
Horror and laughs in a clever slasher novel
Debut thrillers tend to fall into two categories: the perfectly plotted handshake that introduces us to the promise of a series to follow and, very rarely, the unexpected high dive that turns convention on its head, dazzling us with its sheer audacity.
Count Gina Wohlsdorf’s Security among the high-board thrillers, both for its narrative daring and successful weaving of horror, humor and Fifty Shades of Grey hotness into one unforgettable reading experience.
We enter the luxurious 20-story Manderley Resort in Santa Barbara less than 24 hours before its grand opening. Tessa, the general manager, rides roughshod over housekeeping, front desk and food & bev on the lower 19. The 20th floor remains off-limits to all but the resort’s elite security team, which monitors a state-of-the-art security system specifically designed to protect the world’s one-percenters.
But behind this behind-the-scenes, pre-grand opening frenzy lurks a masked killer who is systematically retiring the help, one by one, in gruesome ways.
Why the carnage? And who’s narrating this grim tale? Wohlsdorf offers clues in the chapter headings, which simply consist of security camera numbers. Then, less than 20 pages in, she doubles the intrigue by splitting the descriptive narrative briefly into two columns. Then three. Then four.
Wohlsdorf breaks into laughter when I admit my first reaction was, “Oh God, no!”
“Yeah, this could go so wrong!” she admits during a call to her home in Denver. “I was aware that it was a really, really sensitive device, and I didn’t want it to come across like a device. Whenever the head of security was seeing two or three things at once, I split the page. But I was aware of it as an instrument to sometimes get something across thematically, like splitting the page between a very graphic sex scene and also a staff member’s flight—this duality of sex and death, which is classic to the slasher genre.”
And she would know. Growing up in Bismarck, North Dakota, Wohlsdorf dealt with her own preadolescent anxiety by immersing herself in the big-screen mayhem of such cinema slashers as Halloween’s Michael Myers, Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees and Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger. Little did she realize that life would soon nudge her into exploring horror from a whole new perspective: her own.
“When I was 13, I got hit by a car going a good 30 miles per hour; it whacked me into the gutter and broke my upper arm clean in half. I looked up from the gutter and just started screaming, and people came to help,” she recalls. “As I was lying there, I suddenly realized: This is what you’ve been afraid of your whole life. You might die here, but you’re OK; it’s a beautiful day, the sun is out, birds are singing and that’s awesome. Lying in the gutter, I realized, you know, it’s really ridiculous how much time you’ve wasted being scared when this is it—you’re here and you’re fine.”
Several years later, she took her first stab at writing a slasher novel.
“I loved Stephen King, read everything by Stephen King and loved reading horror, but there was no ‘slasher’ novel,” she says. “So I sat down and tried to write one, and I was like, ‘Well, that’s why; that’s awful!’ It didn’t work at all. It just read wretchedly, and I kind of gave up.”
“As a kid, I was always wondering what Michael Myers was doing when he wasn’t on screen. Does he snack? Does he make phone calls or do laundry?”
To her surprise, her page and screen influences—including the Daphne du Maurier classic Rebecca (set in part in the Cornish estate of Manderley) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (with its creepy deserted hotel)—combined to inspire a new horror novel idea. But where to set it?
“I’m notoriously spatially challenged; you turn me in a circle and I get lost, even in places that I’m very, very familiar with,” Wohlsdorf admits. “So when I had the initial idea for Security, I sat down and drew a very simple schematic of the hotel. I knew there were 20 floors and an external pool and a glass cover. So I had a really good grasp of the grounds.”
She knew from experience that her killer would have to be three-dimensional to carry off such a locked-room mystery. She fashioned hers after one of her screen favorites.
“As a kid, I was always wondering what Michael Myers was doing when he wasn’t on screen. Does he snack? Does he make phone calls or do laundry?” she says. “So in my book, the killer is kind of the most human character, because you see him do all of those things. He’s human; he makes mistakes and he’s funny. He drags a liver along the floor like a tin can. Come on, that’s funny! You almost like him. You almost want to hang out.”
Recent public concerns over privacy and security, including Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews’ hotel stalking lawsuit, provide the powerful subtext that drives Security. And once again, Wohlsdorf’s personal experience helped bring the security fears to life.
“I had this boss I once worked for who was bugging her breakroom. And we tested it, as workers will, and it was very strange to know that she could be listening at any time to our conversations, which she did quite often,” Wohlsdorf recalls. “Why would she need that? I’m sure that her rationalization was, that’s when you’re safe, when you just know everything that goes on. But that’s also when you’re so vulnerable, because that’s when your megalomania can really hobble your relationships. You see that in Security as well.”
For Wohlsdorf, whose works-in-progress include a father-daughter thriller and a “zombie romance,” facing some of life’s darkest fears has opened up more than just literary possibilities. “It’s life possibilities, too,” she says. “Writing’s scary, and trying to make a living is akin to suicide! Being fearless helps a lot.”