‘Hanover House’ by Brenda Novak

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Dr Evelyn Talbot is a Psychiatrist with a dark and troubled past. When she was sixteen years old, her boyfriend, Jasper, murdered her best friends and then abducted and tortured Evelyn before finally fleeing, leaving her for dead. Although it is some twenty years since the attack, its effects on Evelyn long lasting, not helped by knowing that Jasper is still at large.

Wanting to understand how someone she had loved and trusted could turn upon her, and how she could have missed his inherent psychopathy, Evelyn has dedicated her life to learning about and studying psychopaths to try and understand what makes them tick. To that end, armed with a government grant, she is about to set up a high security unit in the wilds of Alaska where she can study the very nature of some of the worst criminals currently incarcerated. Not all of the residents of Hilltop Alaska are happy that Hanover House is to open on their doorstep, and this includes the local State Trooper, Sergeant Amarok.

With Evelyn’s new unit now hitting the headlines, and after an emotional plea by Evelyn’s father to Jasper’s parents to help find him and end his daughter’s mental suffering, she comes back to the attention of Jasper. She has never truly left his mind and over the years he has continued to torture and kill women he felt held her likeness. But these women don’t really scratch that itch he has, and Jasper longs for one last moment with the only one that got away.

‘Hanover House’ is a great introduction to the upcoming Hanover House series of books by Brenda Novak, the first of which, ‘Her Darkest Nightmare’ is reased in September. Giving the reader a good insight into some of the main characters that will shape the series, it also gives us Evelyn’s background, how she came to be a psychiatrist and setting up the ongoing tension that exists between her and Amarok. There are some very dark themes throughout this short, as you would expect in any book talking of psychopaths, but the violence itself is more implied than gratuitous so should not put readers off. It may still be worth exercising caution though if sensitive to the subject of abduction and rape.

Novak has created an intriguing character in Evelyn Talbot, one I am keen to read more about. She has survived a brutal attack with understandable lingering fears and anxieties about trust and opening herself up to love. And yet she is also strong and determined and even in these few short pages you are left with the feeling that she has the potential to open herself up at some point, if only to Amarok. He is also in interesting character, opposed to Evelyn’s project, but intrigued by her and unwilling to let her fears prevent him from pursuing a relationship, however long it may take for her to accept it.

As for Jasper, with part of the story told from his point of view, you start to get a feel for what happens in the mind of a true psychopath. He is a sociopath, able to hide in among normal society; married with children, although unemployed unless you count his part time career as a murderer. His distaste for his family is well written, as is his ongoing obsession with Evelyn.

The story moves fluently along to a somewhat open ending, which allows for a natural transition into the first chaper, as well as providing a source of conflict for future stories no doubt. There isn’t much actual delving into the mind of the psychopath either but then if every question was already answered in the prequel, it wouldn’t make for much of a series. The narrative between characters, particularly Evelyn’s relationships with Amarok and her understandably protective mother, it very believable.

There are moments of great tension in the piece as Jasper has a few false starts in getting close to Evelyn. There are also quiet moments where there is more reflection on Evelyn’s own psyche fragile following the attack. What this prequel does do, is set up a very interesting premise for the upcoming series, with characters who have a lot of potential to develop further and I really look forward to reading the first in the series.

4 stars.