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Friday, January 8, 2016

The Masked Truth, by Kelley Armstrong. Doubleday Canada, Random House. 2015. $21.99 ages 14 and up

"The therapy room door is wide open. There's been no sign of Gray or Predator. We're constantly listening for them. Even without asking Max if he is, I know the answer, because whenever we hear footsteps, he glances that way, tracking them even as we move. A moment ago I heard footsteps on distant stairs. Heading up to the second floor. How many sets of stairs are there?"

It's hard to believe that Riley Vazquez is able to put one foot in front of the other. She has been through a lot for a seventeen-year-old. Her father, a policeman, has been killed while on duty. Then, while babysitting as a favor to a friend, the owners of the house are murdered. Riley keeps herself and the child she is caring for safe under a bed. She is deemed a hero. She doesn't feel much like one as she feels hiding was a coward's way out, rather than trying to help.

Therapy is beginning to make a difference. One weekend Riley is convinced to attend a therapy camp with a group of other teenagers trying to deal with their own issues. Healing and wellness are the goals for all. Situated in an abandoned warehouse that is being renovated, the teens are made welcome, shown around the facility, and in a group session when three masked and violent men take them hostage and a ransom for their return is demanded.

Things go very badly; Riley is convinced by Max to run for their lives. Thus begins a terrifying search for a way out, while evading capture. As they go we learn much about the two and discover that they are excellent partners in their bid for safety and freedom. Riley is incredibly strong, while dealing with her PTSD and the flashbacks she is having and the panic that she so often feels. With Max at her side, she remains remarkably calm and brave. Max hasn't openly admitted that he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, a prognosis that has altered his life in every way. He is concerned about how he might react in the situation they are in, and without his medication those worries increase. He cannot admit, even to Riley, what is wrong.

As the number of deaths escalate, the two continue their search for a way out. This first part of the story moves quickly and with increasing tension, as you would expect. Ms. Armstrong's fine writing keeps her readers focused. The second part of the book, following their escape and the discovery of what has happened in the warehouse, is even more fast paced with twists and turns that did not allow me to stop reading at any point. When the truth is revealed, readers realize that the truth has been 'masked' in many ways.

Small moments of humor, the strength of the characters, the insight into mental health issues and the resulting understanding for some behaviors, the plotting, the relentless pacing, the twists and turns, the first person narration by Riley and the periodic third person perspective of Max, the violence (which is never gratuitous), and the compassion felt, result in a book that I would recommend to those who love a thrilling ride in the books they read. They will not be disappointed. 

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