A largely uninteresting and occasionally tedious read, this begins when the 17-year-old Lizzy Gardner is abducted by a serial killer known as “Spiderman”, for his habit of using insects to terrorize his victims. Lizzy manages to escape, but Spiderman isn’t captured, until almost a decade and a half later, when someone confesses to the crimes. By then, Lizzy has become a private eye, and also giving lectures to young girls, on how to avoid falling victim as she did. She’s not convinced the right person has been caught, and she’s right: the real Spiderman is by no means happy that someone else has taken “credit” for his crimes. So he starts up again, with the eventual aim of recapturing Lizzy, the one who got away…
It’s really extremely contrived, with Lizzy fortuitously unable to recall any significant elements of her ordeal – even the place where she was held – which could have allowed the police to capture the perpetrator. Then there’s the convenient coincidence that her boyfriend of the time has grown up to become (what are the odds?) an FBI agent. Of course, when they reconnect, the old sparks still fly, and he’s also the only one who thinks she’s not a demented PTSD victim. Somewhat more engaging, to be honest, are the supporting female characters, including Jessica, Lizzie’s intern, who has her own reasons for interest in the case. Leading them is likely Hayley, an abused teenager and attendee at Lizzy’s lecture, who takes it upon herself to become bait for Spiderman, so that she can deal with him. If the whole story had been told from her point of view, it could have been a fresh perspective.
Instead, you could make the case Spiderman is given better motivation and characterization than the heroine. Although even here, it’s the usual mix of childhood trauma and hatred of women; the only unusual aspect is he seems himself as what could be described as a “social justice warrior,” punishing those he perceives as “bad girls.” Yet the prose devoted to him is one of the problems here: Ragan’s desire to show both sides of the story, almost inevitably, leaves both of them under-cooked. Despite its clear desire to be Silence of the Lambs, this most certainly falls short, on both sides of the scales of justice.
Part of the problem is that it feels like the characters are universally weighed down with the burden of a tragic past, from which they can’t escape. While I know tragedy is one of the driving forces of drama, this appears to be Ragan’s literary version of “If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The plot offers virtually nothing in the way of surprises or twists, meandering on to the confrontation between Lizzie and Spiderman, which you’ve been expecting since about chapter three. There’s precious little here to explain the series’s apparent success, and even less that would get me interested in reading any further entries.
Author: T.R. Ragan
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, available through Amazon in both printed and e-book versions.