Elizabeth Lerner Benedict (Eliza)

Eliza grows up as the second daughter to a father who is a child psychologist and a mother who works with the criminally insane. She lives in the shadow of her older sister’s academic and social success. Whereas her sister, Vonnie, knows what she wants in life, Eliza has no idea what she wants until after she is kidnapped and tormented by Walter Bowman. Although Eliza’s willingness to write and talk to her captor is frustrating at times to readers and infuriating to Trudy Tackett, Lippman skillfully creates a victim and heroine who experiences conflicted emotions about what happened to her. Eliza does not want to give Walter power over her again, but she realizes that she needs to confront him before he is executed to try to speak for the girls who did not escape alive. In the end, Eliza recognizes her contentment in life’s little things, such as a perfect moment with her children and husband; she does not need anyone else’s approval or suggestions.

Walter Bowman

When Walter kills his first victim, a fifteen-year-old girl named Kelly, he is a discontented mechanic at his father’s garage. He views himself as attractive, intelligent, and adventurous and cannot figure out why women are not attracted to him. Frustrated with being turned down by local girls, Walter lures Kelly into his truck and kills her when she resists his advances. He then nonchalantly returns to his benign life; he believes he is different from other killers. Walter’s lack of self-awareness enables him to silence any conscience that he does have, and he murders two other girls, abducts Eliza, and kills Holly Tackett. After Walter is sentenced to death and spends twenty years in prison, he views himself as a different person. From Eliza’s perspective, Walter has changed in minor ways—he is able to laugh at himself, and he apologizes (although Eliza realizes later that Walter had an...

(The entire section is 687 words.)