Security, by Gina Wohlsdorf
There’s nothing better to read on a hot summer day than a spine-chilling, bloody thriller. Rivaling Psycho for gore, but with the feel of a Wes Anderson hotel, Security is definitely one of the biggest hits of the year. I can’t believe this is Gina Wohlsdorf’s debut novel.
The Killer is on the seventh floor. He’s washing his hands in Room 717, scrubbing vivid red from his nail beds and knuckles into the bathroom sink. He picks a fine, light hair from his shirt cuff, studies it with brief interest, and flicks it behind him. It lands on the white bath mat.
In what is supposed to be the most secure hotel in the world, the employees and managers get ready for the Grand Opening as a killer cleans a bloody knife in Room 717. A maid (who is an expert at stains) takes on a small, red droplet on the pristine white carpet outside. The French chef is throwing tantrums and a dare-devil drops by. And all the while, they are being watched.
The water in the sink is paling from a strange, swirled red orange to a shade that matched the gold lead of the taps. A knife the length of an average man’s forearm is drying on a white towel beside the basked of assorted guest soaps.
The thing that stood out the most for me was the genius of the narration. Gina Wohlsdorf takes omniscient third person narration to a whole new level when her narrator becomes one of the most important characters in the story. I felt like I was watching the events unfold through the security cameras; Wohlsdorf also has a blast messing with the reader through her cunning depiction of simultaneous events, leading to twists that will give you whiplash. This mastery of form makes this so much more than a hack ‘n slash gore fest; it makes it a work of art that Dexter would be proud to hang on his wall.
“I’m just saying, for this being the safest hotel in the world, I haven’t seen one sign of security. Not one.” Tessa’s smile deepens. “The best security is invisible security.” “But if security’s invisible,” Brian says, “how do you know when it fails?”
After the shadowy narrator, the next most important character is the hotel itself, which looms over the narrative with a life of its own. Shaped like a big, white, glowing tooth, the endless corridors, the (ill-conceived) white carpeting and the impossibly slow elevator add to the suspense. Not to mention secret rooms, and the invisible presence of the hotel security. While Tessa, the heroine of the story, is compelling and I was certainly rooting for her to survive, I thought she might have been upstaged a little by the Manderley Resort.
We become what we become by accident, a lot of us. We find a method of being and be that. Even if we think we’re thinking about what we’re becoming, we’re often thinking around it, because there doesn’t seem to be enough time.
I don’t read thrillers all that often, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was clever, quick, and tidy. The twists fooled me, and the suspense hooked me. Wohlsdorf succeeded in what she set out to do; this book is a roaring success. And on top of that, beyond the thrills and bloody spills, is a layer of depth as the reader is lead to contemplate life, death, love, and invited to be a voyeur on this awful night. Plus, I absolutely loved the characters who give a Hotel Babylon level of quirk and energy to the methodical actions of getting a hotel ready to open.
The secret to anything is to decide. Anything is surmountable. Anything. Anything but death, but if death is not foreign, if death is not exotic, if death isn’t – but death is. Death always is. It’s the unknown country. It’s the tenant of tall shadows. It’s the dark. It is the Thing humanity has tried to vanquish with cities, with lit-all-night streetlamps; with medicine and surgery, religion and mythology, art and demagoguery, and yet-yet, yet, death looks at these measures and feels the briefest, barest confusion. It carries on with its business. It’s the boogeyman.
If Fawlty Towers was written by Bret Easton Ellis, you’d get something half as good as what Gina Wohlsdorf has done with Security. It’s a quick read, and I couldn’t put it down. Do your family a favour and get a couple of copies; this is not a book to share.