In Her Darkest Nightmare (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #1) by Brenda Novak, Hanover House is psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot’s pride and joy. The newly built facility in Hilltop, Alaska, holds some of the most dangerous psychopaths in the country, all convicted of heinous crimes. The types of crimes that Evelyn is all too familiar with, having survived being kidnapped at age sixteen, tortured and raped at the hands of her then boyfriend Jasper. She’s made it her career to study these criminals and find a way to use her knowledge to hopefully keep others safe and from enduring the pain she’s been through.
‘…She knew he was still around, tracking her, watching her, making plans. She would not allow him to drag her back to that shack again, not even figuratively. She’d fought too hard to recover.’
The opening of Hanover House has created tension in Hilltop, including with Sergeant Amarok, the town’s only law enforcement agent. Having such violent criminals that close to the residents makes him nervous. In working with Evelyn, he was growing more comfortable with the facility until two women are brutally murdered with all fingers pointing to a connection with Hanover House. Amarok’s job gets much more complicated when his tenuous personal relationship with Evelyn begins to strengthen just as her past comes back to haunt her. It will take their combined efforts to fight past the corruption in the jail and find out who the killer really is.
“I don’t know what you’re going to do, how long you’ll even stay in Alaska. But I want to be with you while you’re here. It’s that simple.”
Her eyebrows gathered. “It won’t stay simple. Romantic relationships never do–”
“It’s simple right now,” he said. “And we’re going to leave it at that.”
What a wild, tragic, heart-pounding tale! Her Darkest Nightmare was the first full-length novel in Brenda Novak’s newest series, The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, where we followed a woman who survived a brutal attack and kidnapping as a teen to become one of the most renowned psychiatrists today dealing strictly with psychopaths. Cue the drama…
“I’m trying to tell you that”–he glanced at the camera again–“not every killer at Hanover House is locked up.”
I will say right off the bat that this book may not be for everyone. It has in-depth details of some pretty dark subjects such as murder, rape, torture, and abductions. And even the chapter titles are quotes from famous psychopaths like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. Plus we got an inside look into a couple of the psychopath’s minds, both from Evelyn’s perspective and from the killer’s POV. I thought Brenda Novak did an outstanding job creating a realistic, albeit a gritty, picture of how the inmates acted and interacted with others. And the setting being in Alaska, with the lack of sunlight, the constant blizzards and no cellphone service really added to the drama and made it that much more difficult for our protagonists.
In my humble opinion, Evelyn was the true meaning of a survivor. Her hair-raising story of what psychopath Jasper did to her as a teenager made her an extremely easy character to empathize with. And the strength she showed on a daily basis, dealing with the inmates and trying to find a way to keep others from going through what she went through was amazing. I liked that Evelyn still held compassion in her heart for those around her– yes, even some of the inmates in some ways–considering that it would have been easy for her to be bitter. The only minor issue I did have was with how fixated she became on the seven year age difference between herself and Amarok. It was overplayed a bit, kind of a constant part of their arguments, but I did understand where she was coming from, looking at herself as the ‘older woman’ in the relationship.
Amarok was a great hero. He was loyal, trustworthy, handsome, and did right by the people of Hilltop as their law enforcement officer and as their friend. I really liked him as a love match for Evelyn. She needed someone who was stable and who would be understanding of her situation if she was to overcome her horrific past. Amarok went above and beyond to protect Evelyn and solve the murders in which they became entangled. And even though he wasn’t happy about Hanover House being built in his town, I thought it spoke of his true character that he mostly kept an open mind about the facility and assisted whenever help was needed.
It should be quite interesting to see how Hanover House recovers with everything so up in the air. Evelyn and Amarok were left in a good place, but that sense of peace might be short-lived after reading the Epilogue. I can’t wait to find out where Brenda Novak will take us next in this exciting series.
First in an electrifying new series from New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak
THE HUNT FOR A SERIAL KILLER
Evelyn Talbot knows that a psychopath can look perfectly normal. She was only sixteen when her own boyfriend Jasper imprisoned and tortured her—and left her for dead. Now an eminent psychiatrist who specializes in the criminal mind, Evelyn is the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility located in a small Alaskan town. Her job puts her at odds with Sergeant Amarok, who is convinced that Hanover is a threat to his community…even as his attraction to beautiful Evelyn threatens to tear his world apart.
BEGINS WITH AN ESCAPE FROM HER PAST
Then, just as the bitter Alaskan winter cuts both town and prison off from the outside world, the mutilated body of a local woman turns up. For Amarok, this is the final proof he needs: Hanover has to go. Evelyn, though, has reason to fear that the crime is a personal message to her—the first sign that the killer who haunts her dreams has found her again. . .and that the life she has so carefully rebuilt will never be the same…