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The Collective by Alison Gaylin
Thriller

The Collective

by Alison Gaylin

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Quick take

Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned in this propulsive story of rage, injustice, and the limits of revenge.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FastRead

    Fast read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Action

    Action-packed

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Movieish

    Movieish

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Murder

    Murder

Synopsis

Just how far will a grieving mother go to right a tragic wrong?

Camille Gardner is a grieving—and angry—mother who, five years after her daughter’s death, is still obsessed with the privileged young man she believes to be responsible.

When her rash actions attract the attention of a secret group of women—the collective—Camille is drawn into a dark web where these mothers share their wildly different stories of loss as well as their desire for justice in a world where privilege denies accountability and perpetrators emerge unscathed. Fueled by mutual rage, these women orchestrate their own brand of justice through precise, anonymous, complexly plotted and perfectly executed revenge killings, with individual members completing a specific and integral task in each plan.

As Camille struggles to comprehend whether this is a role-playing exercise or terrifying reality, she must decide if these women are truly avenging angels or monsters. Becoming more deeply enmeshed in the group, Camille learns truths about the collective—and about herself—that she may not be able to survive.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of assault and graphic violence.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Collective.
The Collective

ONE

The ceremony starts in twenty minutes. I’m climbing out of the subway tunnel, a thousand unwanted smells in my hair. I’m not used to being around this many people—the stink of them, the heat, the noise. The noise especially. I just shared a subway car with a group of high school girls, and their laughter still swirls in my ears. I probably should have driven, but it’s been hard for me to drive long distances since Emily’s death. My thoughts start spinning along with the wheels, memories of road trips, of carpools and radio singalongs and petty arguments, and before I know it, I’m aiming straight for the divider.

The venue is just three blocks away. I walk slowly, slower than everyone around me, trying to catch my breath, to still my thoughts, to think of nothing but the sidewalk and the cold night air and where I need to be.

From half a block away, I recognize the Brayburn Club. I know it from the photo I found online. It’s located in a Gramercy Park brownstone with leaded windows and wide, majestic steps. It’s a week past New Year’s, but the Brayburn Club is still decorated for the holiday season, a lush wreath filling the front door, icicle lights dripping from the window-sills like fresh beads of sweat.

I pass a group of young women smoking last-minute cigarettes—friends of his, maybe?—and I think back to the time I caught Emily smoking weed with her friend Fiona. She must have been fourteen, always a little old for her years and bored of our small Hudson Valley town. I got so angry with her. Grounded her for two months. Her dad thought it excessive. We smoked pot when we were that age, Matt said, missing the point. Yes, we smoked pot when we were fourteen, but Emily wasn’t us. She was better than us.

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Why I love it

I’m a sucker for a fast-paced thriller with a compelling “what would you do” premise: Would you take stolen money and run? Would you keep your partner’s murderous past a secret? Would you crash a plane or save your family, if forced to choose? I love them because these types of books immediately drop me right into the shoes of the protagonist. What would I do? In The Collective, Alison Gaylin asks a doozy: If someone killed your child, would you want them dead?

Camille Gardener is living a shell of her former life years after the death of her teenage daughter. Consumed by anger toward the privileged boy who evaded all consequences and resentful of the common platitudes she receives from those around her to help her “move on,” Camille at last finds solace in a dark underworld of mothers who have tragically lost children. There, the women not only indulge each other’s anger, but stoke it through collectively devised revenge fantasies. But before long, fantasy turns to action and Camille grapples with whether she’s part of an elaborate role-play or a member of a group plotting vigilante killings.

The Collective is an unflinching look at female rage and the power of women’s bonds. Add to that shocking secrets and harrowing choices and you’ve got a book that demands to be read in one sitting.

It’s not my first book by Gaylin and it certainly won’t be my last!

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Member ratings (24,995)

  • Nicole W.

    Nampa, ID

    A group of women who’ve lost children to violence becoming a vigilante justice machine? Love! It addresses the connection with “justice” & wealth & that when it comes to power, you’re in til you arent

  • Kristen H.

    Arlington, VA

    Wow. This will be a book I’ll be thinking about for a while. It’s impossible to put down until the very last page, and even then, you still want more. Haven’t read a thriller this good in a long time.

  • Lisa M.

    Tampa, FL

    DIDN’T SEE THE TWIST THAT CAME. It’s a very creative story line and so well done. I enjoyed this book and the journey it takes you on with someone dealing with grief & the lengths you’d go for justice

  • Victoria K.

    Mundelein , IL

    Wow- this revenge tale is both heartbreaking and tense! It’s been five years since Camille’s daughter died, but her grief still fuels her fury. A shadowy group may be just the outlet she needs…right?

  • Ana L.

    Piscataway, NJ

    Wow! Absolutely loved this one! It was so different from other psych thrillers and keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time! Super unique concept and now I need more Alison Gaylin reads! 5⭐️

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