"No Exit" by Taylor Adams
Though I have never encountered one first hand — thank you baby Jesus — I strongly suspect that I would not do well in a situation of extreme peril.
First, I am tragically and irrevocably out of shape... and prone to turning an ankle with even the slightest of elevation gradient.
And, when I do fall, I certainly don't do it gracefully.
Another reason I think I am likely literally fucked if anything bad happens to me: when I encounter trauma, I experience neither the fight nor the flight response. I, much like a doomed possum seized upon by headlights while just trying to waddle his way across a country road in the dark of night, freeze.
Fortunately, Darcy, the protagonist of this book, isn’t nearly as helpless as I suspect I would be. Otherwise, this novel would have been muccccchhhhhhhh shorter.
As the book opens, Darcy is racing a blizzard, trying to get over a treacherous mountain pass before it becomes impassable. Because she’s in a Honda Civic — and because racing a blizzard through the fucking mountains rarely works out in the favor the individual challenging the blizzard — she finds herself unsuccessful.
Having no other option, really, she pulls off at a rest stop and tries to resign herself to riding out the storm.
Though it comes as little comfort, she has some company, it seems.
Also taking refuge in this not-equipped-to-act-as-refuge rest stop are an older woman and man, a handsome albeit annoying talkative man and an almost impossibly weasley guy.
Though she knows she should finally accept what she should have already known was inevitable and settle in for a long wait, Darcy finds it exceedingly difficult to do so.
As luck would have it, she had a very real reason to try to beat this storm.
She was trying to return home to see her mother — who she just found out was diagnosed with an obnoxiously aggressive form of cancer.
Compounding the problem, Darcy doesn’t just need to say goodbye to her mother, she also needs to apologize, as the last words they shared weren’t positive ones.
Knowing that her mother not surviving the night is a real possibility, Darcy tries to do the only thing she can do, seek out cell phone service and make a call.
But as she’s out in the inhospitable elements, trying desperately to get just one bar, she sees something that she was never meant to see.
Suddenly, there is a much more pressing matter concerning her.
Given what she has witnessed, she knows one thing for sure — one of her rest stop co-inhabitants can’t be trusted.
Now Darcy, driven by a passion to help that is probably fueled, at least in part, by her inability to do anything about her mother’s situation, finds herself willing to risk absolutely everything to literally save the day.
Fast-paced and full of twists, this novel is the absolutely perfect thriller to pick up on a snowy winter’s day.
Unless, of course, you’re spending that snowy winter’s day snowed in at a mountain rest stop with four questionable strangers, that is.
Uncommonly, despite the fact-pacing, author Taylor Adams did a masterful job of both setting the scene and developing his characters.
Because I could all but see the grimy grout that rested between the brown tiled floors on which Darcy paced in her ill-suited-for-the-weather Chucks, I was able to truly put myself in that room with those characters.
And because I was continually fed more backstory, I found myself growing increasingly attached to the characters and increasingly concerned with whether or not they would make it out of the situation if not un-, at least minimally, scathed.
Another mark in the plus column for this thriller is that it was, inarguably, different.
It wasn’t the typical spouse-is-murdered-other-spouse-must-have-done-it set up that is, at this point, more than a little cliche, really.
Instead, we had a fresh, young character.
A bold, risky setting.
And a high-stakes — and sadly realistic — crime driving the action.
As much as I absolutely did enjoy this novel, it wasn’t free of drawbacks.
The most significant weakness of this novel was the fact that it didn’t really contain any shades of gray.
The bad guys were really fucking bad.
And the good guys were almost impossibly, altruistically good.
It’s true, this duality wouldn’t have to be a bad thing.
I, too, hate the uncertainty that comes with the existence of shades of gray.
But this lack of any territory between absolute perfection and pure evil did make it tad difficult to believe.
Because real life isn’t black and white.
It’s gray AF.
Honestly, the lack of a gray area wasn’t the only thing that made me question the believability of this book.
In much the way the muscle-bound lead actor in an action flick manages to survive the nearly unsurvivable, our protagonist, Darcy, appears to have the spare-life bank of not just one, but instead an entire fucking heard of cats.
Not only does she gallivant around in snow that is so deep it’s measured in feet not inches while wearing clothes that are insufficient to say the least, she also survives:
*I’m serious, don’t read this list if you haven’t read this book*
An attempted suffocation by plastic bag.
Numerous hand-to-hand combat scenarios.
Several blows to the head.
Having her fingers slammed in a door.
Ripping off *gag* a finger to escape the door.
The rest stop blowing up.
More time in the fucking snow.
Bleeding out in the snow.
And I found this… hard to take.
I mean, yes. I wanted Darcy to live.
She was, after all, the good guy.
But… I mean… would she have, though?
With everything she went through.
With all of the odds stacked against her.
Is there any possibility this girl would have walked away from this?
I… really don’t think so.
In truth, though, the strength of this novel as an overall work far outweighs any weakness.
It was absolutely enjoyable to read and truly was everything you seek when selecting a thriller from the overflowing shelf of tomes claiming to belong in the genre.
I truly do not know how anyone could fail to enjoy the non-stop action and resist becoming truly attached to the wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time protagonist, Darcy.
It earns an exuberant 4 out of 5 cocktails.
My TBR is fucking overflowing with some wonderful upcoming releases. Want to see which one I’m picking up next? Follow me, here.
As you can certainly see if you’ve followed D.R.R. at all, thrillers are kinda my weakness. I’m so busy reading yet-to-be-released thrillers, though, that I know I must be missing some stellar ones that have been out a while. Let’s fix that. What’s your favorite thriller ever? Tell me about it in the comments, below.