This Time You Lose is the perfect choice for a suspense seeker. If you want to have a tense, tight and terror filled read from practically the first page to the last, you've found the right book.
The story relates the occurrences, over a day, in the life of child care provider Lisa Kaamp. She is accompanied by many supporting characters and one seriously sadistic antagonist. It is difficult to discuss my experience of this story without revealing key elements of the plot. Suffice it to say, there is a conflict that consumes the entire novel and is resolved very quickly at the end.
Herein, for me, lies the problem. The writing is done in real-time and presents an hour-by-hour capture of the action. However, it was sometimes unclear what the chronology was as events described occurred concurrently. The book would be well suited to a time stamp for each chapter, so that the reader can keep the timeline straight. I also found the unanswered question, which is threaded throughout, an unsettling feature. It's not clear if it is intentional, but the reader never knows why TITO, the depraved aggressor, targets Lisa so vehemently. I was left to wonder and this was not good when there was so much that transpired that seemed inexplicably evil. I don't mind some uncertainty, but this seemed to be an excessive amount and it detracted from my enjoyment of the story. As the novel reaches its climax, we have to hold our breath as we wait to find out how the situation is resolved. This state of protracted agitation is precisely the condition I was in for the whole book. It's the reason that I didn't award five stars.
Chris Stralyn is a very good writer. She uses language that is real, raw and appropriate for the character. She reveals dimensions of their personality through thought insights and memory recollections. Aspects of all ring true and the reader can find areas of relateability. The main characters are equally determined, though their goals are at odds. She writes TITO in such a way that one feels no mercy towards him. The insertion of her daycare charges and their families only layer the sensation assault, by displaying heroics and humanity simultaneously. The story is told through Lisa and her thoughts foreshadow as well as retell. Her singular focus drives the story and mirrors the accompanying police action. One wonders if they too would be able to withstand the travesties brought upon her and similarly survive.
Though we get to know the characters, the lack of exposition leaves the understanding to be situational. It would have been helpful to have more background. The story could have been a richer read and less break neck in its pacing. Though it would have made it a longer book, with those additions, we'd care about the characters because we know them and not because we know right from wrong.
This Time You Lose is a worthy effort and a worthwhile read. I would read this author again and recommend that thrill hunters find their way to this book.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)