February Book Review Club: Security by Gina Wholsdorf

“The best security is invisible security. The most thorough safety is safety one’s object of protection doesn’t know about.”

Security is really best described as a slasher film in book form and hits all the right notes in that regard. It follows the story of Tessa, the hotel manager at Manderly Resort, the newest, flashiest high-profile resort hotel on the Santa Barbara coast. As she oversees the staff in their preparations for Manderly’s grand opening the next day a killer stalks the halls, murdering everyone who crosses his path. All of this is narrated by a mysterious stranger who is watching the bloodbath over the hotel’s closed-circuit security system.

Told in the third-person omniscient voice, Security has a different feel than most novels. Because the narrator is telling the reader what happens as they view it on the hotel’s incredibly comprehensive security cameras, we get not only a play-by-play of the horror as it happens but also this unknown viewers opinions which are usually laced with a bit of dark humor. For example, we get this during a scene in the kitchen:

“Brian is attacking the grease on his hands with a kitchen towel. The towel has red stains on it, most likely cherry coulis. One could not rule out the possibility that the stains are not cherry coulis.”

One of the things that makes this book unique is the way the author chooses to show simultaneous action. The pages are split in half, thirds, or quarters with each scene playing out in those sections, giving the impression that they are being viewed on side-by-side television screens as they are being relayed to the reader by our mysterious narrator. In any other book this might feel gimmicky but here it’s used perfectly (and sparingly) to remind you how the narrator is privy to the events as they unfold. I also have to add that when you slowly begin to realize who the narrator is, your jaw will drop. It was a stroke of genius that I never saw coming.

The characters were both stereotypical in their make-up – the tightly-wound girl boss, the faithful maid, the temperamental French chef, etc. – but incredibly well-developed at the same time. The book follows traditional slasher-film rules so much that each death is predictable but in a way that doesn’t decrease the enjoyment of the book. (I actually had fun guessing who would die next!) Despite all the blood and gore there’s a certain playfulness in it’s tone that makes it a fun read. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and because of the format, as a reader you’re able to join in on that fun. You’ll find yourself thinking “NO! Don’t open that door!” as you read, just like you would were you watching it on a screen. It was a total success in that regard.

With nods to Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, and of course Daphne du Maurier, this debut – DEBUT! – novel is a gift to horror fans. Security is funny, clever, bloody, and tremendously inventive. It certainly isn’t going to be for everyone but if you like slasher films and don’t mind a little gore in your life, give this a try. Pop a bowl of popcorn, grab a soda, and settle in to read this book from start to stop. You’re not going to want to stop reading and this book almost requires movie theater butter.

Backlist Bump: This novel is so unique there’s no book I would recommend based on structure, but if you want to be familiar with a handful of the many references found in the book, read Stephen King’s The Shining, Rebecca du Murier’s Rebecca, and Cornell Wolrich’s It Had to Be Murder.

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@Barrie Summy