Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Fiction Review: The Captives

I've been wanting to read The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut since its release in 2018. It caught my eye because Immergut was a long-time editor at FamilyFun magazine, which I wrote for freelance for over a decade. I never worked directly with her but always enjoyed her articles and was excited to see she'd turned to fiction after the magazine folded. This unique psychological suspense novel kept the tension up throughout the story.

Frank Lundquist works as a psychologist in a women's prison in New York state. It's not clear at first exactly what happened, but some sort of scandal lost him his Manhattan practice and landed him here. He's stunned one day when an inmate walks into his office for a new appointment, and he recognizes her as his high school crush. Miranda Greene was more than just a crush for Frank; he watched her every move and can still recite her achievements at track events. But she was a popular girl, and he was one of those quiet, invisible guys without any friends. He knows who she is as soon as she walks in his office, but she doesn't recognize him. Despite this being a huge ethical issue, he moves forward with her therapy without revealing that he knows her. She is still beautiful, even in this place, and he looks forward to his sessions with her. He can read in her file about her crime--murder--and knows of her very long sentence, though he has no idea what the circumstances were or how the golden girl from high school could have fallen to such a low. As their sessions continue, Frank becomes determined to somehow save Miranda.

This story unfolds slowly, with tension gradually building. Both Frank's and Miranda's backstories are revealed bit by bit: their childhoods, siblings, what happened to Frank's career, and how Miranda ended up in prison, convicted of murder. The action moves back and forth between the present and those past events, so the reader gradually gets to know each of them better. Meanwhile, in the present, there is a growing sense of dread because you know that Frank shouldn't be seeing Miranda as a patient, and Miranda is growing more desperate and Frank more obsessed with helping her (beyond therapy). The audio production was excellent, with both a male and female narrator to read Frank and Miranda's alternating chapters. Much of this novel is a slow build-up, with some surprising twists in store in the last chapters. I just read that The Captives was a 2019 Edgar Award finalist for Best Debut Novel, and I look forward to reading her second novel, released in 2020, You Again.

288 pages, Ecco


This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:


R.I.P. Challenge


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, from Frank's section during his first meeting with Miranda and thinking back to high school, and/or download it from Audible. This sample really sets up the whole story.


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Or you can order The Captives from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. Oh this sounds really good. A therapist who shouldn't be seeing the patient is a great premise.