'Security': Debut novel uses twists to great advantage

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By Laura Farmer, correspondent

“Security,” the debut novel from Gina Wohlsdorf, is a modern spin on Hitchcock’s classic, “Rear Window”: a tale of voyeurism in the age of high security, with vivid characters and dark humor enough to make the gruesome murders palatable. It’s a gripping, fast read that will keep you up at night — and keep you looking over your shoulder.

Mandaly Resort, a brand new, gleaming, 20-story hotel on the California coast, is “supposed to be the safest hotel in the world.” With its world-class security, hundreds of cameras and a secret elevator, owner Charles Destin hopes to attract the most discerning of travelers: diplomates, celebrities and wealthy clients out for trysts.

“It looks like a goddamn tooth,” says the gardener, who hates the design. “Like it’d bite you when you weren’t watching close.”

But a week before the opening, the hotel transforms from a safe haven to a terrifying cage, as the staff is killed, one by one, in a cat-and-mouse style play. The staff’s every movement is monitored by security, and the killers are always one step ahead, taking victims out, one by one, with brutal — almost rehearsed? — precision.

But who is behind the attacks? And who is watching who?

Wohlsdorf is fearless in her debut work, and her experimental turns — including everything from employing a mystery narrator to occasionally writing split screen to mimic security footage — only increase the tension and connection to the characters. A lesser writer would use these devices simply to show off: with Wohlsdorf, readers can rest assured that each bend, each unusual turn, is building to a greater whole.

And while the ending brings more relief that realization, it’s still a satisfying conclusion from a remarkable first-time author.

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