Edgar Allan Poe, the inventor of the modern mystery story, frequently used unreliable narrators in order upend conventional storytelling. In that regard, author Jay Kerk is a disciple of Poe, and his novel THE TRAPPED DAUGHTER has more than its fair share of macabre moments. The protagonist and narrator is Belle, a young woman who is being held captive against her will by her tyrannical father. Belle is at first presented as mentally unwell. Very unwell. Indeed, Belle appears to be the archetypal psychotic narrator a la Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” However, as the story progresses, we learn that Belle’s captivity is in part due to her love for her boyfriend Gabe, a popular star who got famous after stealing Belle’s ideas. Or did he? The problem throughout much of THE TRAPPED DAUGHTER is that nothing can be believed at first. Even Belle’s overwrought psychosis gets called into question.
THE TRAPPED DAUGHTER is a lyrical and stylized portrait of unfolding madness. Belle is sick, yes, but it is never easy to tell if she is a liar. The mystery at the heart of this novel is the truth, i.e. it’s a mystery trying to sort the what’s real from what’s fabricated. Everyone in story is suspicious and simultaneously guilty of concealing the truth. Even Belle, through whom readers experience the tale, is unsure of herself and her own memories. The story is as full of twists and turns as a game of Snakes and Ladders and is perfect for those readers who enjoy good and gorgeously dark puzzles. However, it must be said that Belle’s narration frequently verges on repetition. Like a truly haunted soul, she has a bad habit of telling herself the same things over and over again. While realistic, it does make at times for tough reading. There are moments when Kerk puts brilliant philosophy and poetry in the mouth of Belle and the author should be praised for composing a genuinely opaque thriller with a conclusion that cannot be correctly guessed–even by the most seasoned reader of mystery novels.
Plot twists abound in this harrowing tale of an abused and isolated young woman struggling with lost love and lost ideas in Jay Kerk’s THE TRAPPED DAUGHTER, a solid psychological thriller sure to give readers the creeps.
~Benjamin Welton for IndieReader