Gutted, by Anna Madorsky, is a psychological thriller about two damaged young people who meet late one night and are drawn into a strange, dark romance.
Elliott, emotionally damaged by her family, constantly berates and belittles herself. She thinks she’s unlikeable and unlovable, yet she has friends who care for her, and she provides support for a woman at work whose mother is dying. Jason is even more damaged by mental and physical abuse. Regardless, their strange attraction grows.
Then Jason shares his sinister secret: To keep the headaches and blackouts at bay, he kills people: 17 so far. After soul searching, Elliott decides to stay with him, provided she can help pick the next victim. After all, Jason only kills people he believes deserve it. But the plan goes awry when the next victim is much too close to home.
Madorsky offers readers a fascinating look at two people, predator and prey, who seem equally broken initially. Yet Elliott, in her striving to heal the effects of her abusive youth by making friends, seeing a therapist, and becoming stronger and happier with Jason’s dubious love, begins to draw readers’ affections, much like Rachel in Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train.
But Elliott’s characterization also becomes a weakness of the story. Because Elliott reveals Jason’s secret in the first few pages, Madorsky leans too heavily on a deep dive into Elliott’s intellectual, philosophical, and psychological verbal smoke screen. As a result, the book moves sluggishly, and suspense is lacking.
The story ends ambiguously with Elliott forced to question her statement that “a person under the influence of love is capable of anything.” Readers may wish for a more decisive conclusion, even though a sequel is planned.
Regardless, those intrigued by unusual interpersonal dynamics, such as those in Gone Girl, will find Gutted an entertaining read.
Also available in hardcover and paperback.