Gregg Olsen is well known as the author of bestselling adult crime novels. This is his third for teenagers, and follows two Empty Coffin novels, Envy and Betrayal. These featured spiky twin girls, and though impressive for the sparky teen dialogue and genuinely dark atmosphere, suffered a little from over-convoluted plots.
Olsen has really hit his stride in Run however, and how. It’s a tightly plotted crime thriller, with a driving pace that will make it a read-in-one-sitting book for many, and a classic crime hero, who just happens to be a sixteen year old girl. Rylee is a loner – she’s had to be. Her family have been on the run all her life, fleeing a violent stalker obsessed with her mother, or so they believe. When she comes home from school one day to find her step-father murdered and her mother gone, Rylee goes straight into survival mode. She’s determined to save her mother, and totally ruthless. With brilliant – and witty – economy, each chapter opens with a summary of Rylee’s situation, totting up: cash, food, shelter, weapons and plan – as the book progresses the weapons mount up, and her plan changes from ‘stay calm’, to – well, you’ll need to read it.
So many books, films and TV programmes seem to revel in the torture and murder of women and girls. That’s not the case here. Rylee is the hunter, not the hunted, and she’s out not just to save her mother but, as she finds out more about the man who has taken her, to avenge and give voice to his other victims. Tracking him down she speaks to the families of other murdered girls, so we get to know them as people, understand the impact what has happened to them has had on their families. Olsen writes true crime too and has spent a lot of his life talking to victims. You can’t help but feel that Rylee is fulfilling a need in him too to speak for these families. Watching a neighbour on TV discussing what’s happened to her family, Rylee comments bleakly, ‘Did he think that evil only comes after the bad? That darkness only seeps into a corner? … This is exactly what happens to nice people like us.’ This is very dark stuff indeed – thank heavens Rylee is out there, and on the victims’ side.