Book Review: The Prisoner by B.A. Paris
This almost Dickensian thriller starts with a young woman who’s just been kidnapped by persons unknown and is being kept in the dark, both figuratively and literally.
After losing her parents at a young age, Amelie Lamont lived on the streets until she was more or less rescued by Carolyn Blakely, the woman who would become her benefactress and good friend. Now twenty-one years old, she nurses ambitions of becoming a lawyer and finding justice for people like herself and her father, who died waiting in vain for legal vindication. With Carolyn helping her get back on her feet, she believes that all she needs to realize her goal is to get a job and save up enough money for university.
So it’s almost a dream come true when she’s hired by billionaire Ned Hawthorpe for an entry-level position at his glossy magazine. Her other closest friends work for him too, ensuring that she feels even more comfortable in the position than she ordinarily might. When Ned asks her to travel with him as his assistant on a glamorous trip to Las Vegas, Amelie is both dazzled and flattered. She’s never even been on a plane before, and is eager to prove her professional worth to her boss of several months.
It comes as a surprise to her, then, when Ned confides in her that he needs an extra little favor. He wants to get his parents off his back about marrying a woman of their choice, and thinks that a Vegas wedding to Amelie would be perfect for getting them to ease off for at least a little while. In exchange, he promises her a quick divorce and a hundred thousand pounds, enough to cover her higher education. Though initially hesitant, she agrees both to this and to his cover story involving a secret relationship and spur-of-the-moment decisions. Of course, the truth must stay between her and Ned, causing her no little anxiety:
If it hadn’t been for Carolyn, I wouldn’t have had any misgivings at all. She would be hurt that I’d kept a supposed relationship with Ned from her. It bothered me that I couldn’t tell her the truth. But if I did, she’d be angry that I’d married him for money. Except that I hadn’t, not really, because I’d given him something in return, a way out of what to him was an impossible situation.
Things start to go wrong almost immediately when the newlyweds head back to England. Ned takes her straight to his gated estate, warning her against contacting anyone. Her phone and computer are either missing or broken, and the only other person on the grounds is the bodyguard who can no longer meet her eye. The press are clamoring outside, leaving Amelie feeling both trapped and isolated.
But that’s not the worst of it. As Amelie slowly begins to discover the real reason for Ned’s offer, she finds herself caught in a waking nightmare. Her friends attempt to rescue her but are rebuffed. Soon, she becomes convinced that Ned is out to kill her. Her terror increases. The kidnapping, brutal as it is, almost feels like a respite from her new husband’s malicious intent, as Amelie and Ned are held in separate rooms that are close enough to allow them to hear each other’s shouted protests at their treatment:
I imagine him holding a copy of today’s newspaper as he stares at a camera, his eyes wide with fear. Ned isn’t the bravest of men.
A door slams below.
“Hey, wait!” I hear Ned shout. But there is only silence.
A wave of sadness flows through me. If we were another couple, I might have put my mouth against the hole [in the floor] and called quietly to him, let him know I was nearby, tell him we could find a way to escape together. But we are not that couple, and when I escape, it will be to get away from him, not just our abductors.
For Amelie is determined to get out of this alive and alone. Her strength of will has seen her through years of taking care of her dying dad before living rough on the streets. How far will she go to protect herself this time, and what truths will she uncover in the process?
The Prisoner is a page-turning tale of a young woman used as a pawn in a greater game. She isn’t willing to stand back and let things be, but is determined to stick to her principles and find the truth, no matter the cost. Amelie displays both the grit and the foolhardiness of youth as she seeks to regain control of a life damaged by the callousness of others. There are twists aplenty, with villains and benefactors who wouldn’t be out of place in a classic Charles Dickens novel. The ending, though abrupt, feels fitting for a young woman on the verge of embracing adulthood with all its uncertainties, and beginning the rest of her hard-won life.