06 Nov

Unicorn Review: Security by Gina Wohlsdorf

I very rarely do this (it’s like a unicorn sighting, hence the title of the post) because I very rarely finish a book feeling impressed, but here we are. I’ll put some maybe not for you ifs at the end because Differences, but I have nothing negative to say about this book.

Oh, and it’s $1.99 for Kindle right now, so, you know, minimal investment risk.

I have no relationship with this author, I purchased this book with my own money, and I am not compensated for this review in any way unless you click the link and buy it, which is not my motivation or I’d be telling you a book was amazeballs twice a day instead of once upon a never.

Security by Gina Wohlsdorf takes place at Manderley, a new luxury hotel on the California coast, which is being marketed to the elite as an elegant bastion of safety for those who can afford it. It is not yet open to the public. A few handfuls of workers are putting the finishing touches on the presentation to make the hotel bright and shiny for its coming out party in the near future.

The chapter titles denote camera placements, so there’s our first indication our narrator is observing the events from the security command center. He begins by giving us the lay of the land and introducing us to the cast of characters, paying particular attention to Tessa, the woman he loves, who doesn’t love him back. Once the gardener, electricians, and sous chefs clear out, eight people (by my count) remain in this huge hotel, not including the narrator, the killer systematically murdering everyone in the hotel, and the bodies that piled up before the story began.

Because our head-of-security narrator at first seems pretty blasé about the killer running around doing what killers do, it creates an initial impression that perhaps the two of them are in cahoots. But a while later, we learn the killer has an accomplice in the room with our narrator, and despite their proximity, the two of them don’t seem particularly companionable, so it seems there is some other explanation why the head of security is letting people be slaughtered on his watch.

About halfway through, there’s a lull in the other players’ activities/butcherings. Our head of security at last has a moment to indulge in self-reflection, and we learn why he’s allowing this rampage to continue. (My reaction was, “Aw. Dude. Damn. That is going to make it really hard to be the hero.”)

As in any good psychological mindfuck book, we now have context that makes this situation utterly hopeless, and we have to keep reading to find out who, if anyone, makes it out alive and how they manage that feat because it’s clear at this point they are screwed.

It also makes it all the more excruciating that our narrator is unable to look away from the woman he loves, who doesn’t love him back, while she’s loving someone else.

This may not be the book for you if the semi-omniscient narrative style in the sample doesn’t do it for you, as that’s the narrative style throughout the book. It works because the narrator has thoroughly investigated everyone’s backgrounds, profiled them, watched their every move, and listened to their every word for months, so he’s in a position to speculate on their internals, but some readers were put off by the detachment of the point of view.

This may not be the book for you if you’re sensitive to violence and gore. The killer clearly enjoys his work and prefers artistic flair to subtlety. (There is, however, no rape, so extra thumbs up for that!)

This may not be the book for you if you need super happy Disney Princess endings, but in that case, you probably shouldn’t be reading murder books anyway.

If they’re not selling the movie rights for this, all the balls have been dropped. It might as well have been written for the screen. Even with my generalized disdain for the quality of movies during the current century, I can see how this could be really well done.


So there you have it, the rare, majestic, and mythical endorsement by me of a book. If you’re going to grab it, grab it while it’s cheap.

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