Arlene Hunt’s latest is a deadly game of Chase.
Horrific Massacres of children have stunned the world in recent years – from that at Columbine High School in 1999 to the harrowing slighter of teenagers at the Norwegian summer camp this year. Irish crime writer Arlene Hunt uses similar sickening violence to provide the dramatic opening to The Chosen, which is set in Rockville, a small American town.
Jessie Conway is a teacher at the local high school. Her ordinary appearance – ” 38years old, tall but evenly proportioned, with shoulder-length hair” –mirrors her quiet marriage to Mike, the town’s mechanic. Her peaceful existence is shattered on a summer’s afternoon when two students embark on a killing frenzy in the school. Jessie single-handedly takes down the two armed boys, saving the lives of many of her students. Still traumatized, she is branded a hero and catapulted into the media spotlight. It is this frenzied attention that draws the predatory gaze of Caleb Switch, a serial killer.
Disciplined and meticulous, Switch views people as animals to be categorized and hunted. His job volunteering for a church provides an ideal opportunity to prey on the vulnerable, filtering out the weak ” category Bs” who he kills for a new identity or money. “The category As” – women like Jessie, wit an instinct for survival – are kidnapped and released into the wilderness of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. His game is always the same: his victims get a five-minute head start before he follows, armed with a longbow.
Hunt’s novel, the first she has set outside Dublin, is a gripping read with plenty of twists and turns. The chapters narrating Jessie’s desperate attempt to out-run Switch are spliced with Mike’s frantic searching, and Hunt gradually increases the pace, mimicking the stealth of a hunter stalking its prey.
Jessie’s determination to cling to life ultimately transforms The Chosen into an uplifting story about the power of love and hope.