Associated Press

‘The Captives’ is a solid thriller with unusual twists

Teenage obsessions often fade as one grows up. But psychologist Frank Lundquist never got over his fixation on his high school crush, Miranda Greene — his preoccupation with her only receded into the back of his mind. Until, that is, once golden girl Miranda shows up as an inmate at the Milford Basin Correctional Facility where Frank is now a counselor.

Debra Jo Immergut’s subtle precision — without stooping to cliches or the obvious — shows how Frank and Miranda are captives of their past, present and future. Immergut’s debut novel is a fascinating psychological look at two damaged people as well as being a solid thriller with unusual, and believable, twists.

As a teen, Frank stalked Miranda, watching her intently during class, spying on her when she changed in the locker room for track and following her every moment. Frank, the son of a famous psychiatrist, went on to have a successful, thriving practice until his work imploded and his marriage ended. Now he is a counselor at the Milford Basin Correctional Facility that houses women prisoners. Miranda was a popular top student and athlete, the daughter of a wealthy one-term congressman. Now she is serving a 52-year sentence for second-degree murder.

Frank immediately recognizes Miranda when she becomes his patient. While he knows that ethically he should refer her to another counselor, he often has proved himself to be morally challenged. Their sessions allow Frank to continue his fantasies while Miranda has a secret reason to continue counseling. Although she admits Frank “lit up some dusty corridors of memory,” Miranda has no idea who he is. How these sessions change both — and lead to inescapable consequences — propels “The Captives” to its surprising finale.

“The Captives” richly explores each person’s background, in which the truth was far from the reality presented to the world, and how they came to their current situations. Frank’s respected father used him and his brother, Clyde, now a drug addict, as subjects of his research to predict success in children. Miranda’s parents’ marriage was disintegrating because of infidelities and a family tragedy; her father was hemorrhaging money with his subsequent failed campaign.

Immergut also navigates an intense look at the myriad personalities of Mirada’s fellow inmates, exploring the different reasons that landed these women in prison.

Magazine editor and writing professor Immergut’s first published work was the critically acclaimed short fiction collection, “Private Property,” published in 1992. “The Captives” is her first full-length novel, allowing Immergut to again showcase her considerable talents.

OLINE H. COGDILL, Associated Press