Friday, July 31, 2015

A game of life and death in the Mojave Desert


By Vicki Petterson

Publisher: Gallery Books 

Pub. Date: July 7, 2015

Rating: 2 & 1/2 out of 5 stars

In Vicki Pettersson's novel Swerve, it takes hardly any time to cut to the chase. In the first chapter, Kristine Rush and her fiance Daniel are driving out of their hometown of Las Vegas, through the blistering hot Mojave desert, and eventually headed to Daniel's family cabin on Big Bear Lake. They stop at a desolate roadside rest so Kristine can change out of her work clothes and she is attacked by an assailant in the restroom. She is able to escape but discovers that Daniel has been abducted. This sets the tone for the rest of the novel which is an extended cat and mouse style game between abductor and Kristine.

It is a thrilling ride for the reader as they follow Kristine who has absolutely no idea why anyone would take Daniel and then subject her to the strange and violent torments to come. That is of course the mystery of the tale and what drives the first half of the novel. That first half is quite thrilling as the stakes become higher and Kristine becomes entrenched in a deadly game with a sadistic killer. Then comes the second half where everything is turned on its head not necessarily in a good way. It is difficult to describe my disappointment with the turn of events without giving it away except to say if you keep up with the latest bestselling thrillers you will have seen this before. But even if you do not know what happens, there is a serious perception twist that didn't sit well for me. The second half reads just as fast and furious and you still root for the underdog but it was too much of a flip-flop with no warning signs before you hit the road bump. We are asked to accept that the very smart and capable Kristine is essentially unable to pick up the clues that had to appear in her life, and are finally meticulously revealed to us, or we can simply accept that the writer is laying out too many unrealistic scenarios and expecting the reader to just accept them. I'll go with the latter.

It's too bad because Swerve is actually a well written and well paced suspense novel. I did care and root for Christine but more in the first half than the second. The novel's best quality is that it is a creative mix of road trip and kidnap thriller. It is an enjoyable read and is likely to do well with the summer vacationers and beach readers. I am sure that for many this will be a cant-put-down reading experience. But for me it is a riveting first half which eventually leads to the author squandering any credibility in the second half. It is one of those frustrating books that will entertain you throughout but may have you shaking your head by the end.

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