Rafe Solmes is a Bath, England, literature professor who has just finished a book on fairy tales, but his interest in gruesome stories like “Bluebeard” and “The True Bride” is far from academic. When Clarissa, a university assistant, lets him walk her home one night, she discovers a sinister side to this seemingly harmless scholar. An obsessive master manipulator who won’t take no for an answer, Rafe is soon everywhere she is—lurking outside her apartment at all hours, sending increasingly threatening gifts and even turning her friends against her. 

Clarissa’s life is quickly consumed by the need to predict his next move. Then she’s selected to serve as a juror on a seven-week court case. In the jury box, she finds refuge from Rafe’s attentions, but the trial brings its own terrors. The victim’s testimony—she was kidnapped and raped as payback for a drug deal gone bad—offers a frightening premonition of Clarissa’s own future if she can’t escape her pursuer. As the trial plays out, the defense attorneys methodically pick apart the victim’s credibility, recasting her ordeal as a willing exchange of sex for drugs. Clarissa learns a chilling lesson: “That’s what happens when you press charges, when you complain. They just rape you up there all over again and say you’re a prostitute.”

Clarissa delays going to the police, even as her plight becomes more urgent. The Book of You, like many a fairy tale, features a heroine who’s naturally timid and mild-mannered. But as the weeks pass, this seemingly passive protagonist realizes she must act to save her own life, and she decides to bring Rafe down by finding out the truth about his past.

Clarissa’s burgeoning romance with a hunky fellow jurist provides a narrative bright spot. Still, The Book of You is a frighteningly intimate—and accurate—portrayal of stalking. Through Clarissa’s eyes, we see the ragged nerves, sleepless nights and paranoia brought about by Rafe’s “romantic” obsession. First-time author Claire Kendal draws readers into a taut, compulsively readable tale of pursuit and escape.

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