The Line Between by Tosca Lee

I would like to thank the publisher for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review

Publisher – Howard Books

Published – Out Now

Price - £20.31 Hardcover £11.99 Kindle

An extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’s always been told was coming. When Wynter Roth is turned out of New Earth, a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie, she emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation. As Wynter struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face to face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life – until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples…

The end of the world happens a lot in our genre. It’s a test of character as to will our humanity or our more basic instincts prevail? Unsurprisingly religions are also often keen to pose the question – will the righteous prevail or the devil? In this entertaining thriller Tosca Lee mixes the two to give us a fast-paced thriller in modern America with an intriguing main lead who is looking at our world through a very unusual perspective.

When we first meet Wynter she is being evicted from New Earth a base for a religious cult ran by the typically charismatic leader Magnus. Wynter has transgressed and so is now banished to the damned i.e. our world. While this is going on a pig farmer and those he shares the meat with become ill and the disease that leads to loss of memories, hallucinations and eventually death. Wynter who has spent her childhood in New Earth is finding a world of 24-hour news, mobile phones and TV. The cult would not even allow her sister to have a Star Wars t-shirt (true evil). But Wynter finds herself embroiled in the growing epidemic – firstly a family member is sent to investigate the outbreak and then her sister also escapes from the cult and gives her evidence that somehow Magnus is involved.  Wynter finds herself driving into the epidemic seeking someone to get answers and then with the help of the mysterious Chase Miller she tries to find a way out of what appears to be the end of the world.

I was pleasantly surprised at how engrossed I got into this thriller as on one level the tale of cults and diseases can appear well a bit old testament; luckily Lee has a great ability to provide a fascinating lead character and the heart of the novel is Wynter. We see in alternating chapter her years in New Earth growing from a child to a woman that Magnus seems to have an unhealthy interest in and then Wynter trying to adapt to the new world outside the camp. Lee really shows us the ways cults operate in taking control of people’s lives (and fortunes). This is one of the more sinister parts of the novel. There is also an intriguing mystery for the reader to unravel as to how Wynter got released and what exactly Magnus is up to. I really liked how post release Wynter is shown to be suffering from a form of PTSD – the idea of someone so sheltered suddenly seeing news stories about natural disasters, crime and just the sheer vibrancy of the planet is well done.  Her reactions are totally understandable, and you do really want to cheer as she slowly adjusts to using phones, emails and modern life. Unfortunately, this coincides with a very fast spreading and nasty epidemic that may wipe this all out.

The second half of the novel is the more familiar apocalyptic road trip through a country imploding.  This feels a little more stereotypical with bands of murderous locals, fights over the price of petrol and Wynter suddenly finding herself on the run. However, it’s done with energy and pace so having spent so much of the time understanding and sympathising with Wynter you really do care if she escapes and there is never a feeling in the novel that everyone is going to be safe. If I had a niggle it was the very end of the novel goes global scale in a short space of time and I think tries to juggle too many things at once.  It may have been better to show us more of the modern world collapsing to allow us to get a sense of scale rather than simply the odd news story.  For me Wynter’s internal battles to fight her fears was the bigger draw of the book.

I think if you would like a straightforward tale of cults and the apocalypse you will enjoy reading this tale and Wynter is an engaging lead.  It doesn’t do anything too new but sometimes you just want to get into a story and although the views are predictable you will still enjoy the ride!