Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Published October 2015, by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Imagine an eerie looking village, Texas Chainsaw Massacre style, which only inhabitants are eight people, most of them related to each other.
Now imagine a young woman, Laura, who’s on a small road trip by herself to settle her anxious mind, and literally takes a turn for the worst by exploring an old dirt road, leading to the aforementioned ‘village’.
If you’re picturing human limbs flying off, accompanied by a gruesome amount of blood spattering, I’m going to have to disappoint or relieve you; unlike The Texas Chainsaw massacre, this is not a gory horror story, but a psychological one instead.
Let’s take a look at the synopsis on Goodreads:
An absorbing but frightening psychological thriller with more than a touch of horror about it, ‘Undelivered’ centers on a lone woman victim who, like so many others, goes missing under truly macabre and mysterious circumstances. Arriving at a place called Highlands, a place where only the heartless live, she becomes the captive of the strangest of affluent owners. To worsen events, she soon learns that she is pregnant. Losing the baby seems inconceivable, but the longer she remains in residence, the more her untimely friend will hinder her performance. The race to escape is on. With Christmas fast-approaching to her estimated childbirth – and with the time of month lacking the typical seasonal goodwill – she does everything possible to deliver them to safety.
The book opens with an introduction to the moments leading up to the final chapter: an imprisoned woman who has been put through the mill. Told in past tense, the story unfolds to explain how Laura has decided to voluntarily leave her sweet family and home; only to end up as another missing figure included in a growing national statistic. The attention focuses on her interaction amongst her tormentors (who all initially hide their true intentions once she reaches the remote location), but at which point the inactive family of eight still happen to make her skin crawl.
Dark events soon reveal the family’s true colours. Expected to relax and watch television whilst under constant surveillance, she finally gets let out onto the grounds to discover the addition of a high-tech security system guarding the perimeter, which forces her to partake in an epic fight for survival. Totally overwhelmed by the stronghold, we follow the trials and tribulations of the lady’s harrowing emotional drama until we recapture the opening scene and progress to an entirely unexpected outcome.
I automatically started reading it (out loud) in Rosamund Pike’s monotonous voice from Gone Girl (if you haven’t seen this movie, go check it out!) This is why I could only read the first half of the book or so when my husband was out (embarrassment for the win). Although Laura Jane Jackson is nothing like Amy Dunne, I just felt like this was the right style to narrate it. Colour me crazy.
I had some difficulty in the beginning with the switching from past to present tense. I now realize the present tense is used when it comes to describing the characters, plus has a purpose which becomes clear at the end of the book.
One of my other, earlier notes was: “It’s not an encyclopedia for crying out loud”. I love random facts, but I don’t think it’s very suitable to describe things in a Wikipedia fashion when you’re trying to build up tension.
At one point, there is a part where the biblical story of Job is being described in detail (almost 2 pages long). The reference to Job alone should’ve been sufficient to make the readers understand the connection between the two stories.
A little later in the book, something similar occurs again: “Somehow the picture had started to both crash (freeze-framing) and falter (becoming overlaid with image distortion)simultaneously.”
Now, this doesn’t only seem a bit odd to me in general, but especially because so many other passages aren’t dumbed down at all, but in fact, made me have to use my dictionary quite often. Some examples of this “Perhaps it was not so for my metacarpals, but all the phalanges in my hands definitely seemed to jointly crack under the pressure through the release of nitrogen as I entwined my fingers.” “Hearing the sword swipe through the cold air sent shivers down my backbone and across my myeloid tissue,….” Who, other than a surgeon or autistic person obsessed with these kinds of things, talks like that??
It sounds too pretentious and truly distracts the readers from the natural flow of the story.
The same goes for the numerous amount of metaphors: digressing and distracting.
I can see the potential of this novel. I loved the idea of having a tunnel buried behind a large tumble dryer (the dryer being the entrance of the tunnel). That’s just brilliant shit!
Furthermore, I liked the character of young boy James the most; the story seemed to come alive every time he entered a scene. Geraldine and Wilfred, a fucked up elderly couple, also truly amused me. The two female main characters, however, Laura, and Moira (the evil mother of the Highlands residents), just didn’t cut it for me. I guess with Laura, it’s mainly due to the issues mentioned above, making it hard for me to stay focused and sympathize with her. When it comes to Moira, I feel like her character could’ve been given more depth, even though the author really tried in telling us her background story and such.
One last thing is that it never truly became clear to me as to why Laura left her boyfriend and family. And as to why ALL of her and her boyfriend’s family members are waving her goodbye when she leaves. Isn’t that a bit formal? If I was going to go on a four-day trip by myself, the only people to see me off would probably be my husband and parents.
I would’ve given this book a higher rating if some cuts were made when it comes to the irrelevant bits I mentioned earlier. I also think it might even work out better if it was turned into a novella instead of a novel. Great material for an Edgar Allan Poe-like short story as well! I can see Matthew Mugridge is a very talented writer but just needs to cut his diamonds to perfection, so to speak.
When the synopsis said “an entirely unexpected outcome“, it wasn’t exaggerating.
*Puts on Rosamund Pike’s voice as Amy Dunne* I’m giving this book 2 brownies.
Links to the book: