“None of these monsters are evil. It’s the evil of others that makes them powerful. Beaten down by the world, shunned, robbed of what they love, they don’t curl up and die. They don’t apologize. They fight back. They get bigger, stronger, more terrifying. You are a monster. We all are. Be grateful for THAT.”
― Alison Gaylin, The Collective
Alison Gaylin’s latest mystery novel, The Collective, tells the story of mothers who are angry. Camille Gardener is obsessed. Her daughter died five years ago at the hands of a young man. Fed up with the empty platitudes from the people who surround her and her marriage’s dissolution, Camille is still obsessed with the young man she believes is responsible for her daughter’s death. She has been following him and his family all these years, wanting to keep up with what they have been doing.
Camille’s actions finally cross a line and she ends up in the spotlight of a secretive group of women called the collective. It starts out innocent enough with a Facebook group, but then ends with Camille being drawn into the dark web. She finds a group of mothers sharing their devastating stories of loss and their intense desires for justice. They all feel wronged by the world – how dare no one hold the perpetrators responsible?! They demand justice and retribution for the unimaginable loss they have been put through.
Rage motivates them. Soon Camille discovers that the group is responsible for many seemingly random killings that are actually incredibly precise, plotted, and planned by group members who are instructed to follow different tasks without knowing what the others are doing. All of their individual tasks culminate into the completion of a plan: the murder of someone who had done them wrong.
When Camille first joins the group, she debates whether or not the collective is a game or reality. The more she becomes involved, the more her feelings shift. Are these women monsters or righteous avengers? There are truths that lie beneath the surface that have the power to destroy the small amount of comfort Camille found within the collective. It all depends on what she believes.