Mini Review: Security by Gina Wohlsdorf 🎧

About mini reviews:

Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .

Billed as horror, Security by Gina Wohlsdorf is a classic slasher that wants to be new. Manderley Hotel — a nod to Daphne du Maurier that the author need not have chosen to do — is supposed to be one of the most secure hotels ever, offering luxury for folks who have the money to buy it. They’re a week away from opening, and a small staff of two maids, an inappropriate hotel manager who needs to be fired, two people whose jobs I never understood, a chef, and a few sous chefs, are getting prepared. Tessa, who seems to have a checkmarks-on-a-clipboard type of job also helped design the hotel (a weird combo, I thought). She’s our main character. A killer in a jump suit, just like Michael Myers, wearing the infamous Michael Myers mask, is waiting on the 17th floor until he is given instructions to start murdering the staff.

While the premise sounded cool, the execution of this novel was unbelievably bad. Tessa wanted to go to school for architecture, but didn’t, and yet she has somehow helped designed the country’s most secure hotel. When she pops outside to check on the gardener (who refuses to enter the hotel — like does he think it’s haunted??), a motorcycle drives up. It’s Brian, who was her foster brother when they were children. They haven’t seen each other in over a decade, but he happens to ride up on the day a killer wreaks havoc at Tessa’s job. Tessa and Brian are likely in love and just need to confirm it, so I waited the whole novel for that to play out. But, coincidences are not the most egregious error Wohlsdorf makes. It’s her choice of narrator.

Here are some spoilers, but it’s worth it because I don’t want you to waste your time on this book. The entire hotel has security cameras, and the 20th floor is off limits to guests and most staff. This is where The Thinker is; he’s apparently the brains who directs The Killer, who kills everyone. Our narrator is the head of security, who was stabbed in the back of the neck, but the knife hit just right that he’s paralyzed, not dead. The Thinker and The Killer do not know this. So, the narrator is watching everything on the security cameras, head flopped over on a desk, butt in an office chair, playing possum.

The problems are numerous: firstly, our narrator tells us what other characters are thinking. This is not possible. He knows how a kiss feels, he knows their instant regrets, he knows their personal histories in depth. Secondly, he can hear everything people say, including Tessa and Brian whispering to each other in bed, post-coital. Earlier, Tessa made a big point about how the cameras do not have audio. If, at any point, it is acknowledged that the cameras DO have audio, it went right by me. Thirdly, he’s giving readers information in places that logically would never have cameras, such as describing when The Killer uses a bathroom in a hotel suite. The narrator tells us that the guy is sitting on the toilet reading People magazine. Are we to believe a luxury hotel is recording in the bathrooms?

All plausibility aside, the novel grows tiresome because all our paralyzed narrator can do is describe what’s happening, which makes for an entire novel of telling, not showing. Because I listened to the audiobook, I cannot confirm if there are moments when the narrator switches to third-person omniscient, but I didn’t notice any such shift. There were times when I was confused about what just happened or where we were. Perhaps there was a camera shift that is clearer in the text version? The only reason I finished Security was to learn who The Killer and The Thinker were, but we never do.

Lastly, a comment on the audiobook narrator, Zach Villa: he has that horrible tendency to make all women characters sound simpering, sort of helpless, even a stronger character like Tessa. Sometimes, he accidentally (I assume) slips and gives males characters the same voice. Regardless, I wouldn’t recommend Security in print or audio formats.

17 comments

  1. I’m afraid you lost me, or rather this book lost me, at the premise. Waiting for people to be killed and watching it happen are not among my preferred reading experiences. Having it done badly apparently adds to the humour in film, maybe not so much in text.
    I’m guessing if Tessa was a (part) owner she might have design input, as well as a checklist to monitor the opening. Glad she scores. I guess I shouldn’t ask if she also dies.

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    • I can’t believe the author chose such a narrator. That was the part that bothered me the whole time. I’ve read two books recently where the author just seems like the biggest goofball who knows so little about basic writing rules.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds awful – and am I misremembering, or is this the *second* terrible book with needless allusions to Rebecca that you’ve posted about in the last month? What’s up with that? It seems silly to deliberately set yourself up for comparisons to such a masterful novel.

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  3. I would have expected Tessa to be the narrator. What a weird, nonsensical choice. But I’m confused…the hotel was designed to have this Thinker there? Killing the staff is part of the hotel design and plan??

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    • I would have settled for any third person narrator, especially an omniscient one who could jump between minds and scenes. The hotel was designed to be the most secure hotel ever for rich people. Why they need such security, I don’t know. Maybe the clientele is going to be celebrities? That’s not discussed. The hotel is in its last leg of getting ready to open. Somehow, The Thinker, who is never identified, is IN the hotel up on the top floor and giving directions to The Killer, who is on a different floor. I’m not even sure there is a motive, though to be fair, in you run-of-the-mill slasher movie, the motive is 1) revenge or 2) the killer is unbelievably evil.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well I can see why you picked this one up-the premise sounds very cool! Too bad the execution sucked. Also, falling in love with your foster brother is kinda weird, not exactly a romance for the ages but I suppose that’s beside the point.

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