I Do Not Belong by Rick Wood is a mesmerizing tale which no reader who gets past the first character death will want to put down. It is probably good that this March 2018 publication is only 216 pages long because it is impossible to put down after the first few chapters; it requires reading in one session. The brief Amazon description might lead a reader to believe that this is a formulaic overdone theme in both novels and film but author Wood’s skill adds a few dimensions to the classic scenario. Ashley, Maya, Milo, Tariq, and Everly wake up to find themselves in a strange room tethered by a chain on one leg in such a way that no person can physically touch another. There is a note explaining that one person will die each hour unless the group can determine who in the group put them there. This is the familiar part. Then Rick Wood begins to apply the twists.
There are multiple connections between the room’s inhabitants but even they cannot immediately recognize the common links. Mystery One. Unsurprisingly, each character has a flaw that landed them in the room. Mystery Two. Rick Wood allows his characters to reveal their fatal flaws through backstories told as each inhabitant examines their background to solve Mystery Three. Who in the room drugged them, transported each to this room, and has determined to kill at least four of them? As Wood weaves tales while exploring the three mysteries, he throws in another twist. The killer that does not belong, the narrator, speaks periodically directly to the reader. Much of the time a mocking tone comes through. The narrator/killer will say, “OK, you should have figured it out by this time. I have given you enough clues. Do you know now?” One time between a couple of the murders I thought I knew who it was. Then, in another aside to the reader, again in a mocking tone, the killer/narrator states, “You didn’t fall for (naming the clue) did you?”
One person will die each hour unless they discover the identity of their abductor. Each person has some sort of device attached. One has a pistol, others have some sort of trigger for an explosive device. The devices can’t be removed; attempts to remove them will possibly trigger the device. Throughout the novel, the threats are carried out. People die.
The character backstories are well done. Milo, a military veteran with definite mental problems, hates everyone and refuses to cooperate with the group in attempting to find the killer. He is so obnoxious it is easy to think of him as the killer. Maya is a defiant, vulgar, uncooperative teenager. Ashley is a former famous Olympic athlete with a dark secret. Several characters hate Tariq just for his name. Guess where he comes from? Milo is a racist or a super-nationalist (not America First, in this case, it is the UK) so Milo and Tariq won’t get along. Everly is an ex-prostitute who had cleaned up her life to be an example for her child. Mostly cleaned up her life that is; there was still the occasional favored client but she tried to keep it discreet.
The killer should know each of the fatal flaws of the other character. How can that be? This might be mystery Four. This novel is fast-paced. My average speed for a novel is fifty pages per hour. I read one novel or a set of short stories per day. I read this novel in three hours. The story pulls the reader along at a gallop. I gave this five Amazon stars and highly recommend it. It is priced at USD 3.99 which I believe is justified for such a gripping story. I read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.