Monday, December 4, 2017

A Mother Driving Across the Country Runs into Terrible Trouble in Arizona

This is a suspense novel written by the Irish crime writer, Stuart Neville, using the pen name "Haylen Beck." It's another of those cases where the author's real name and picture are featured on the cover, raising the issue of why the author even bothers with the pen name. Perhaps Neville wanted to distinguish between his other books, which are set in Ireland, and this one, which is set in the U.S, but I'm not really sure I see the point.

This is one of those books that's especially difficult to review without giving away significant plot points, and I would argue that even the tease on the book cover goes too far in this regard. Suffice it to say that a troubled woman leaves New York, driving to California. She fears that the authorities may be looking for her, and so she's sticking to the back roads which are less traveled. She gets as far as a very small town out in rural Arizona, where everything goes terribly wrong. For my own part, I don't want to give away any more than that, except in a spoiler alert. Read the dust jacket if you wish, and do so at your own risk.

I've read several of Neville's Irish crime novels and have enjoyed them very much, but this one didn't quite work for me. I had a very difficult time buying into the underlying premise of the novel and the story really didn't seem to pick up much momentum until about halfway through. Once it did, I was turning the pages one after another, as quickly as I could; I only wish it hadn't taken quite that long to ramp up the action. It's certainly a fairly good read, but I didn't think it was quite on a par with the author's earlier work.

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