Book Review: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian

Lightning-fast and whip smart. A fresh take on the genre.

Never Saw Me Coming is Vera Kurian’s debut novel, published September 7th, 2021, by Park Row Books. Kurian is a scientist first, novelist second. Per her bio, she’s spent time on both US coasts but now lives in her hometown of DC, which mirrors the setting of her novel.

I was immediately drawn in by the premise of the book: eighteen-year-old Chloe Sevre earns a full scholarship to Adams college when she agrees to participate in a clinical study on psychopaths. It’s new, it’s interesting, and I love unreliable female narrators. Once first introductions were over, the story hits the ground running and drops a couple of bombs in the first 50 pages (my favorite) including, the fact that Chloe is on a revenge mission to kill a childhood ‘friend’, and if that’s not shocking enough, one of the other students in the study is found murdered. After that, the pace continues full speed and we see Chloe teaming up with two other students—Andre and Charles, also participants in the psychopathy study—as they try to figure out the motive behind who is targeting them and why.

But can you really trust a psychopath?

For a debut, Never Saw Me Coming is long in length (389 pages) but since the chapters are relatively short it never slows in pace. I found myself racing through each new chapter as the POV alternated between Chloe (18 year-old hot girl next door), Charles (privileged, handsome, rich kid), and Andre (a student with a troubled past hiding a big secret). Each character is interesting, unique, and complex, bringing their own personal set of traits to the table. Kurian did an amazing job at displaying the nonchalant and calculative tendencies psychopaths are described to exhibit in textbooks to the page, specifically in chapter 47 where I found myself gliding through a particularly gruesome scene with ease, narrated by Chloe, in which I had to pause and go back, shocked at how cold and detached she was. The tone was executed perfectly and it sent shivers down my spine!

One of the things I love the most about this book is how fresh the story idea is. I have read and enjoyed numerous books featuring unreliable narrators for one reason or another, whether it’s addiction, trauma, or straight-up deceit, but it’s not often I read about a diagnosed psychopath who is not only unashamed but openly proud to admit it. And the fact that she’s not the only one makes for a very suspenseful read with an even more interesting cast of characters. The only downside is that sometimes I found it a little hard to follow all of them, nevertheless it’s an expertly plotted novel.

4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers, dark academia with a wide cast of characters, lightning-fast pace, and unreliable narrators.

Plot:

You should never trust a psychopath. But what if you had no choice?

It would be easy to underestimate Chloe Sevre… She’s a freshman honor student, a legging-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. She spends her time on yogalates, frat parties and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her. 

Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study of psychopaths—students like herself who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smartwatches that track their moods and movements.

When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan for revenge into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths—and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.

Book Review: A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

I can’t remember the last time I read a book in under 48 hours.

I’m the kind of reader who, when enthralled with a book, do one of two things: speed read to the end, or savor it for months. Regarding this particular story, it was the former.

A Slow Fire Burning is Paula Hawkins’ third book and was published August 31st, 2021, by Penguin. It’s a standalone novel, and you don’t have to have read her other books to enjoy it. The story takes you through the lives of three women, who seem disconnected at first, but as the story progresses, their backstories are intricately woven together throughout the plot, revealing a dark past that leads directly to murder. Who are these women? How do they know each other? And what underlying issues are they all dealing with?

This isn’t simply a whodunnit. In fact, there is a little something for everyone. It deals with trauma and survivor’s guilt, revenge, female relationships, and even features a book within a book. Shout out to my favorite character, Irene, who is the quintessential little old lady living next door who turns out to be the story’s, Miss Marple. I loved how observant, empathetic, and forgiving she is, always trying to help others and do the right thing. She was also (in my opinion) the most underestimated character, holding all the hidden pieces of the puzzle until the very end. The writing is razor-sharp and expertly plotted.

I may have read this book fast but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was fast-paced. In fact, the momentum of the story was steady and slow-burning (much like the title) until the big reveal. And when I finished the book, it felt like I’d read three stories in one, given the level of detail surrounding each character and how my feelings had changed toward them. I found it so enjoyable I couldn’t put it down and there wasn’t a moment when I found my mind wandering—something that happens on the regular for me, unfortunately. As a writer myself, it was definitely a book that made me sit up and take notes. I felt excited, inspired, and could have read it all over again!

5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend this book to readers who love depth of character, steady-paced plot, and edge-of-your-seat suspense.

Plot:

The story takes us to Islington, north London, where a young man is found on a houseboat with his throat cut. Three women hold clues to the truth. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. And they all have separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?