A dark, compelling new thriller from bestselling authors Sarah A. Denzil and Anni Taylor. Young backpackers Gemma and Hayley arrive at a remote mango farm, out of money and desperate for work. The farm's owner, Tate Llewellyn, welcomes them in with open arms. An enigmatic, wealthy chemist, Tate spends his days running his hobby farm and cultivating rare orchids in his greenhouse. The weeks go on, a blur of fruit-picking, parties, campfires and wading beneath waterfalls in the nearby hot springs. Tate calls the girls his orchids...his pretty orchids.... Until the night the girls find themselves on a dark highway, bruised and bloodied. How did everything go so wrong? Senior Detective Bronwen McKay and psychologist Megan Arlotti question the terrified girls. But Hayley and Gemma are telling two very different stories of what happened to them over the past three months. Which story is the truth and what are the girls covering up?
The most I can say about this one is that it was… fine. It was a bit of a bait and switch, to be honest.
Haley and Gemma are found on the side of the road, bruised and bloody. The man they were running from, their captor, is dead. The truck driver who happened upon them and saved them is badly injured. When police begin investigating, they find a house of horror. There are corpses everywhere, all frozen in a fairly gruesome tableau. At this point I was pretty interested in the story.
The story was made even more intriguing by the fact that Haley and Gemma are telling different stories. They both agree that they were hitchhiking around Australia, eventually working on a mango farm, when they were kidnapped and held hostage by the man who’s now dead. But that’s all they agree on. One of them says they were on the orchard farm for a couple of weeks and held hostage for months. The other says they were picking mangos for an entire summer and were only being held for a few days. Their conflicting stories are making the case more difficult than it should be to investigate, especially considering that it should be fairly straightforward. Their abductor is dead. How hard can it be?
But then we went back in time to the beginning, and that’s where the story started to drag for me. The entire middle of the book just dragged. And, look. I fully admit that I’m not a very sympathetic person. I’m really not. so take my opinion on this with a grain of salt. But these girls – that mango farm – GIRL. YOU ARE IN A CULT. GTFO. It was extremely frustrating to me that these girls suddenly start losing chunks of time, having extremely vivid nightmares, forgetting where they had been, what they had done, who they had met, and never, not one time, did either of them think “Huh. This seems a little weird.” They feel anxious, stressed, worried about something, Tate, the owner of the mango farm, offers them some tea or coffee, and suddenly they feel great. All of their worries have melted away. And not one time did either of them say to the other, “Do you ever notice that we feel like this after tea or coffee?” They just think “Huh. Magic, I guess.” It’s so, so frustrating.
And this goes on for hundreds of pages. Well, I assume it does. It went on for hours in the audiobook. Hours of this. It dragged on for too long, and was entirely too repetitive. The cops and the psychologist assigned to the case weren’t any better. I expect adults, cops especially, to be a little less susceptible to Tate and his manipulations. That’s literally their job. They’re supposed to see through his shit and figure out what’s been going on. And even if one of them was going to fall for it (and it had to be the female detective, didn’t it? Hard eyeroll) why would all of them have been fooled by him? Why would the psychologist, when she finally gets an inkling that Tate might not be a great guy, ignore all of the training I assume she’s had and go running out there alone without telling anyone where she was going to confront him?
The narration by Aimee Horne was the best part of it. Her narration of Tate, in particular, was so effective. She was able to really embody that calm, rational voice of someone telling you that you’re wrong about everything and don’t know what’s in your own head. I could understand how the girls fell under his spell, though it was still supremely frustrating when they were away from him and still couldn’t see the manipulation. And I still think the adults should have known better.
No one acted in a rational manner. No one. I could understand the teenage girls, I guess, even though it was frustrating to listen to for so many hours, but even the adults were ridiculous. Considering how much promise this story had, I was pretty let down by the execution.