Never Saw Me Coming, by Vera Kurian, is a new thriller about a group of known psychopaths at college, and possibly someone hunting the psychopaths on campus.
I was intrigued from the start, but I wasn't quite sure about this one -- because if you know from the start that the protag is a ruthless psychopath, then where's the suspense? You already know they're going to be heartlessly efficient in their goals, so there won't be that stunning thriller reveal when you realize one character is not like other people, one character has been following different rules the whole time. Readers go into Never Saw Me Coming knowing that there's at least one psychopath protag, and so, well, you'd see her coming, wouldn't you?
The story takes place at a college with a scholarship program for psychopaths. They'll be asked to answer psych surveys and take tests, which leads to seven diagnosed psychopaths attending the same college. (Just roll with this part to get to the good story. No need to think too much about the school admin who said, yeah, free tuition for students? No problem! for psychopaths on campus, sure! what could go wrong? and then went on to approve unlimited photocopies for teaching staff, in the true fictional-school dream.)
Freshman psychopath Chloe arrives on campus carefully plotting a murder, but her victim is the man who raped her, so I'm not exactly concerned about him. In another book, this would be a massive spoiler, but here it's just a little background info. That's not even the major drama in the story or the biggest mystery or anything! And even as the major drama unfolds in this pageturner, with mysterious deaths on campus, so much of the book's tension comes from the idea that there are other psychopaths who look like they're living typical student lives.
Chloe is a compelling character, her internal logic makes sense even while she blatantly uses people and pretends to have feelings. I don't love "she was CRAZY! that's the motivation and the plot!" in fiction, so I was nervous this story would end up there, but it doesn't. Here, we have several characters who are 100% ruthless with no concern for other humans, as well as characters with other secrets to keep hidden. Everything is tense, as we try to figure out what each person is lying about.
For the high body count, it's not too gory. There are a couple of descriptions I had to skim (I just want to know who is dead, I don't want any details!) but mostly the suspense comes from wondering about who to trust, and which secrets are going to come out.
Never Saw Me Coming is a tense page-turner with so many suspects and so many secrets. There's an underlying tension about just never understanding what someone else is thinking. It's mentioned several times that the known group of 7 is just the known, diagnosed psychopaths, and there could well be others or other suspects with other motives on campus.
Never Saw Me Coming is by Vera Kurian and will be released by Park Row on September 7, 2021. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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