Review: The Girl in the Basement 0 Comments

Review: The Girl in the Basement

One of my favourite thrillers of all time is The Collector by John Fowles. Published in 1963, it tells the story of a kidnapper and his victim from both perspectives. The kidnapper, Frederick Clegg, is a lonely, prudish young man who collects butterflies. Miranda Grey, the girl he kidnaps, is a fine arts student from a privileged background. Both characters are excellently drawn, at turns fragile and unlikeable.

I was reminded of The Collector while reading The Girl in the Basement, a newly released YA thriller by Dianne Bates. After a night out turns bad, the titular girl, Libby, finds herself alone on a street corner in a red party dress. She is promptly torn from the street by an unknown man—who, it turns out, has been watching her for some time—and taken to the basement of an isolated house in the bush.

Like Frederick in The Collector, the kidnapper in Bates’ novel is motivated by loneliness rather than sex. Referred to by Libby as ‘Psycho Man’, he is revealed to the reader in snatches—from Libby’s perspective, as a bumbling yet bad-tempered captor, and in third person, as a capable and ruthless killer.

At times, Psycho Man’s ruthlessness seemed a bit overdone. What I found most thrilling about The Collector was that I never really knew how much Frederick was capable of, until I was already deeply enmeshed in his point of view. In The Girl in the Basement, Psycho Man is a psychopath from the start, making him a more conventional antagonist.

Nevertheless, The Girl in the Basement is definitely a gripping read. Perhaps the most gripping thing about it is Libby’s perspective, and how it changes throughout the novel, as she deals with escape attempts, injury, and the early stages of Stockholm syndrome. Right until the end, The Girl in the Basement kept me guessing about what was going to happen to Libby, and whether she would ever make it out of her basement alive.


Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a fiction editor at Voiceworks. She likes butterflies, lace, tarot cards and true crime. Find her here.

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