As taut and exciting a thriller as anything likely to be published this year, Bedlam grips right from the opening pages. The voice of 16-year-old Lexi rings true. It is well-nuanced, revealing much about Lexi and her family as the plot unfolds and her perceptions of people change. It becomes apparent that her family circumstances are far from ideal, and that her sassy veneer is a carapace underneath which she is a courageous and surprisingly well-balanced young woman.
Lexi lives with her father and ASBOs-bound brother, but when her father has to go away on mysterious business she is sent to live with her mother who abandoned the family when Lexi was an infant. Her relationship with her mother who is set on marrying the thuggish Owen is the background to Lexi’s exploration of an old hospital building in woods near her mother’s home, the site of the tension at the heart of ‘Bedlam’. She is rescued by a mysterious boy, Kos, when she almost drowns in the flooded cellars of the old building. Is Kos one of the asylum-seekers who were incarcerated there when it was used as a detention centre? And is Owen who works as a security guard escorting failed asylum seekers back to their homelands connected to Kos and mysterious events which took place a few years earlier?
These questions are answered in the final quarter of the book. Kennen builds tension almost unbearably, leaving the reader guessing the possible outcome almost to the end.