A Stephen King-approved, top-tier thriller

2014-08-03 15:00

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The Three by Sarah Lotz

Hodder & Stoughton

R236 at kalahari.com

480 pages

When faced with the inexplicable or that which seems to fit the “miraculous” bill, people will affix meaning.

They will always seek to make sense of the senseless by drawing on their own world-view.

It is this universal truth about us that Sarah Lotz exploits in her unputdownable horror, The Three.

I haven’t read her books before, but I shall rectify this.

The Three, which already has a movie deal in motion, is about four simultaneous plane crashes on four different continents and the aftermath, especially when it is discovered that a child has survived in each of three of the crashes.

That impossibility happening in three different places would be enough to set off the conspiracy theorists and the religious zealots, but when one of the passengers leaves an ominous message, you know there’s going to be worldwide weirdness.

Unremarkable in every way, Pamela May Donald begins a revolution with a cellphone message addressed to her ­pastor, Len Voorhees, which she records while dying in a notorious Japanese forest.

The message begins with a note about feeding her cat, but the second part gets those who believe in the rapture, well, rapturous.

It has implications across the world – political, religious and murderous ones.

Lotz cleverly enlists the help of a fictional author, one who specialises in true crime-style writing, to collate ­accounts of the events of what is known as Black Thursday.

Elspeth Martins collects the first-hand accounts, the chapters of books published, the radio shows hosted, the online chats conducted and all other manner of accounts of the three children and the four crashes.

Like Wilkie Collins, whose 1859 novel The Woman in White is considered to be one of the very first mystery novels, this practice of offering the story from many perspectives builds the tension.

Each perspective or account offers Lotz endless opportunities to titillate her readers with pieces of the puzzle, enticing them to try to put it together, to try to guess how it might all turn out.

Lotz, who is South African, has something quite extraordinary on the jacket of her novel?–?an endorsement from none other than the incomparable Stephen King.

This is probably enough to get many readers who love his writing to try Lotz.

I recommend you do too.

I have plenty of distractions to draw me away from the novel at my bedside, but I could hear this one calling me back until the last shocking page was turned.

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