Never Knowing Review
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Author Chevy Stevens made a chilling splash with her 2010 debut, Still Missing, a riveting novel that became one of my top picks of the year—and landed Stevens on my list of authors to watch. A novel that remarkable is tough to follow—not to mention repeat—but Stevens comes close with Never Knowing.

Adopted as an infant, Sara Gallagher has always wondered about her birth mother. Now a mother herself—and just months away from marrying the man of her dreams—she’s even more interested in knowing who she is and where she came from, so she decides to take the time to find her woman who gave her up.

Sara’s search leads her to Julia Laroche, a college professor who’s more than uninterested in getting to know her daughter; she seems afraid of her. Hurt and confused by Julia’s reaction, Sara keeps digging until she discovers the disturbing truth: her mother was the only survivor of a notorious serial killer who’s still on the loose—and Sara is his daughter. When the story is somehow leaked to the press, it puts Sara, her family, and her relationship with her fiancé in serious danger.

Like Still Missing, Never Knowing is another riveting first-person account, related in often frantic sessions with Sara’s voiceless therapist, Nadine. The simple search for Sara’s birth mother quickly builds into a deadly game of tug of war as she becomes bait in the police’s search for the man known as the Campfire Killer. And it makes for a thrilling case—a carefully implemented, decades-old hunt that has Sara completely engrossed and constantly on-edge, just as readers will be.

Even more fascinating than the chase, though, are the characters and their relationships. Sara’s family dynamics are nothing especially new: sibling rivalry, a weak mother, a demanding father who blatantly favors his natural-born children. But Stevens weaves a new element into this intricate tapestry: the birth father. The man who eventually reaches out to Sara, calling himself “John,” is nothing like her adoptive father. He’s thrilled to have a child—and he’s eager to get to know her. He sends her gifts and tells her stories and takes an interest in who she is and what she does. On the other hand, though, he’s also a killer—a man who’s raped and murdered countless women. But while Sara is afraid of his motives and disgusted by his actions and determined to help the police bring him to justice, she can’t help but take an interest in the notorious killer who’s also her father.

Just like Sara, readers will be intrigued by John. Stevens makes him a sympathetic character in spite of his horrifying crimes—and you might even find yourself liking him (or at least feeling sorry for him) as you follow along on Sara’s obsessive mission to help the police capture him.

With its engaging characters and a suspenseful story, this dark and haunting thriller is like a spider’s web: intricately woven and entirely capable of leaving you hopelessly ensnared. Its conclusion isn’t as shocking or as unexpected as its predecessor’s, but the story is every bit as tense, playing with your emotions as it quietly tangles you in its web of fear and family drama. It’s another must-read release from a noteworthy new author.

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