Carla Norton- The Edge of Normal

The Edge of Normal

Reeve St Claire was abducted when she was twelve years old and held in captivity for four years. Now, in her twenties, she has a fragile stability but with the help of her psychiatrist, she has started to build a life of independence. But she will never shake off the terror and memory of the monster she believes is behind bars. When Tilly Cavanaugh is rescued from a basement having suffered a similar experience, her parents call Reeve to ask for her help in helping their daughter rediscover a ‘normal’ life. But it is only when two other girls go missing that the police confirm the link and that there is a serial abductor in their midst. Reeve knows that she alone has the knowledge which will help to find the perpetrator – but can she overcome her demons to discover the truth?

2013 has produced a plethora of fiction based on the theme of abduction, and the emotional and traumatic journey to recovery undergone by women held captive at the hands of abusers, and with the revelation of the Ariel Castro case in America, there is much to be said about art mirroring life. Admittedly having read at least four with this theme last year with varying degrees of success, I was a little ambivalent at facing another, but thankfully The Edge of Normal  has neatly circumvented the woeful plotting and laboured narratives of the others I have read this year, and really struck a chord in its depiction of Reeve St Claire as a survivor of long term abduction, and her journey back to life.

Called upon to counsel and offer support to a young girl, Tilly, recently liberated from an abductor, Reeve quickly establishes a rapport with her, and through the careful coercion of her psychiatrist, Dr Lerner, not only builds on her own recovery but becomes intrinsically involved in the pursuit of Tilly’s abductor. Naturally, Reeve finds herself in danger as her utter determination to stop this particularly manipulative and brutal man, still holding another girl captive, and as the story unfolds the empathy we have established with this fragile young woman, becomes even more potent. Perhaps through the author’s own professional experience of working with survivors of abuse, there is an extremely authoritative and authentic representation of Reeve’s character and the hurdles she must overcome to survive the other side of her horrific experiences, and this for me was the most compelling aspect of the narrative. Likewise, I found the characterisation of the abductor himself, an outwardly charming and professional man in a position of authority, who dispassionately manipulates other men to do his dirty work for him, extremely effective in the story. I would question slightly how if Reeve would necessarily place herself in the extreme danger she does towards the close of the plot, but was more than happy to suspend my disbelief, such was the strength of Norton’s storytelling overall. Compounded by the tentative relationship between Reeve and police detective Nick Hudson, which thankfully did not resort to some chocolate box resolution, and Reeve’s continuing journey from her fragility as a victim to a more self-assured and confident woman, I found this a thought provoking and very engaging read.

Carla Norton is the author of the Number One New York Times non-fiction bestseller, Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box and the true crime book Disturbed Ground. She was awarded a Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished mystery for The Edge of Nomal. She served as the special sections editor for the San Jose Mercury News and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle. She has an MFA from Goddard College and has twice served as a judge for the Edgar Awards. The Edge of Normal is her debut novel. Carla Norton lives in Florida. Follow on Twitter @CarlaJNorton

Read an interview with Carla Norton here, courtesy of the superb blog: My Bookish Ways

More reviews of The Edge of Normal can be found here:

(With thanks to Pan Macmillan for the ARC)


  1. Fine review as ever, for which thanks. I have to say the title got my attention, and I’m not normally one to be drawn in just by a title. And it’s good to hear that you found the story engaging. Oh, and I love your comment about a ‘chocolate box’ resolution. I may ‘borrow’ that one.

    By the way, I notice you’re reading The Holiday Murders. I’ll be really interested to see what you think of that. I don’t want to say anything more lest I spoil it for you, but I can’t wait to get your reaction.

  2. Great review and thanks for linking to mine too. I really enjoyed this book even though I shared your reservations as to whether the mc would willing put herself into such a dangerous situation. I found the book chilling and delightfully scary!

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