Swerve by Vicki Pettersson (Gallery, July 7th, 2015)-When physician’s assistant Kristine Rush sets off with her surgeon fiancée Daniel across the Nevada desert to spend the 4th of July at his mother’s Lake Arrowhead estate, all is right with the world. She has a daughter she adores and a man she loves, and true happiness has been a long time coming for Kristine. When they stop at a rest stop for her to change, she’s attacked, and when she awakens, Daniel is gone and she notified via text that she’d better follow instructions, or Daniel dies. What follows is a scavenger hunt right out of hell, and Kristine must put herself, and her will to the test, even accessing a darkness within that she thought she’d excised years ago.
I am blown away by Vickie Pettersson’s first straight up thriller. I’m a huge fan of her Signs of the Zodiac urban fantasy series, so I had high hopes, but I really wasn’t quite prepared for Swerve. She took a lot of chances in this harrowing, adrenaline fueled stunner, and they all payed off. For movie fans, the book will certainly call to mind “Duel” and “The Hitcher”, even “The Vanishing”, and they do share common themes, but what they don’t have, that Swerve does, is Kristine. The story is told in her voice, and she reveals snippets of her fraught past throughout the book (you still probably won’t be prepared by how awful her childhood really was when it finally is revealed), and how far she’s come, and how far this madman seems to be willing to push her only add fuel to her considerable inner fire. Kristine is a force, a fury, and she won’t stop until she gets what she wants, hopefully destroying this psycho in the process.
Swerve’s creep factor is at about a 12, and the dread is a slow building, palpable thing. Set pieces like an abandoned water park (at night), and of course the scorching, seemingly never-ending stretch of gritty Nevada desert, make for a tense ride, but it’s really Kristine that drives this ferocious, brutal story. And it is brutal. Kristine is no wilting flower, and neither is this book. There are some scenes that are decidedly not for the faint of heart, and you should probably carve out some time to read this in one sitting, because you’re not going to want to put it down. This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time, and I absolutely recommend that you read it late at night, with the darkness pressing in at your windows, ‘cause I’m wicked like that. The first two thirds of the book are rocket-fueled, but the finale is an absolutely terrifying masterpiece.