When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship’s comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor mishaps lead the families further from the ship’s safety.
One minute the children are there, and the next they’re gone.
What follows is a heart-racing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the distraught parents – now turning on one another and blaming themselves – try to recover their children and their shattered lives.
Published 6th July 2017 by Viking (UK)
I was intrigued by this book from the moment I heard the title – I mean, just the fact it’s called Do Not Become Alarmed tells you that it is indeed going to be alarming right? And it is, but not in the way I was expecting. I wasn’t really sure what I thought this book was going to be about, probably more of a thriller on board a cruise ship than it actually is. But Do Not Become Alarmed actually turned out to be a gritty , brutal story of criminals, kidnap, murder and corruption.
It all starts when the two families decide to take a cruise holiday for Christmas. These people are successful, rich and privileged (and yes, a bit spoilt) and the liner reflects that. Surrounded by opulence and wealth, they set out to enjoy a life of luxury offered to guests on board the ship. But when they decide to leave the ship for a zip-line trip in Central America, one disaster after the other leads to the kids becoming separated from their parents and finding themselves in the hands of a violent criminal, who’ll stop at nothing to make sure they won’t be able to go back and tell of the awful things they’ve seen.
First up, this is a fast paced book with a narrative that begs you to read just one more chapter. I read it within a couple of hours on a weekend morning and couldn’t put it down. Meloy doesn’t mess about with words, and this tone makes for a compulsive and addictive reading experience, and the short chapters switching from the kids to the parents and back again rapidly makes it impossible to put the book down.
There’s a lot to think about here, with some social and political themes running alongside this terrifying story. The wealthy American’s confidence in their lives and success, influence and justice is thrown into question when they’re faced with a different set of rules than the one’s they are used to. There’s also a stark contrast between the Cruise ship children and another two who are introduced in the story.
My feelings for the parents switched from distaste, to frustration, to absolute empathy. I thought all the character’s within this book were excellently and realistically portrayed, with shades and layers which make them flawed, but also makes them human. As it becomes a race against time to find the missing children, my heart was literally in my mouth and some of the more traumatic scenes left me reeling in horror. More so, because there’s something convincingly real and believable about this story.
Do Not Become Alarmed surprised me with its intensity and its ability to grab my attention, holding it until the very last page. It’s a thriller, yes, but it’s also a story of survival and Maile Meloy’s brutally raw writing ensures the reader is invested in and gripped by the journey. Fast-paced, gripping and addictive, I thought it was fantastic and I can not recommend it enough.
(I read a paperback copy courtesy of the publisher)