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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Scabland by Adam Smith is a mind-blowing psychological thriller. What an engrossing and frightening read! This story is one where an original victim of gang rape, Melissa Cohen, is as much to be feared as the twisted rapist, “Spider,” who orchestrated Melissa’s sexual abuse some 20 years earlier. Over those 20 years, she’s become someone else. Thanks to military training and police work, she’s now someone with skills no rapist would want to encounter. When one member of that original rape gang locates her, confesses his role in the abuse and reveals the identities of all but the secretive Spider, Melissa is hell-bent on revenge. But her idea of revenge is nothing like what the gang members or the reader will expect and Adam Smith makes sure readers keep reading to the very last page to find out just what she has in mind. When we do find out, real-life victims of rape might cheer with approval. Even if it’s a bit far-fetched, it’s a most fitting, unusual and unexpected punishment. But Melissa’s mission to locate all the members and execute her plan pits her wits directly against those of Spider, whose identity she doesn’t know. Alternately, Spider always knows what, where and when Melissa’s up to something, and he has every reason in the world for making sure she never discovers his identity. Who is managing to keep Spider one step ahead of her? And in the meantime, why are young women turning up emaciated, dead, and hanged, as it were, in a spider’s web? Talk about a writer keeping readers on the edge of their seats!
Honestly, if you’re into psychological thrillers, Scabland is impossible to put down. It’s very well written, making excellent use of dialogue and a tension-filled plot. Characterization leaves little to be desired, even if Spider is almost too evil to be believed. But Melissa and her motivation are believable. There are even some funny episodes thanks to Melissa’s friend and confidante, Jesse, and a professor with an unusual name and an even more unusual sexual problem…all very welcome in a novel that will, most of the time, make you forget to breathe!