Okay, I admit it. I have a kinda thing for psycho-killer novels. You know, some crazy person who chews up the landscape doing unspeakable things to innocent people. The best one I’ve ever read is Intensity by Dean Koontz. I could not put that book down.
Blake Crouch’s debut novel Desert Places isn’t nearly as good as Intensity, but it’s pretty darn good. It tells the story of successful mystery writer Andrew Thomas. One day Andy gets a letter in his mailbox: There is a body buried on your property covered in your blood. And we’re off. And so is Andy on a harrowing ride which cuts pretty close to home. I don’t want to give away a pivotal plot point, even though it comes fairly soon in the novel. Suffice to say, Andy is about to have a very bad few weeks.
Books like these fail or succeed (for me at least) because of a couple important ingredients. First of all, I want the good guy to be someone I want to root for. He doesn’t necessarily need to be the nicest guy, but he has to be decent in a way that the bad guy is not. Andy, the writer, is decent enough. He visits his mother faithfully, has a good friend. He’s smart and human. I also like the bad guy to be scarily bad. I want to feel afraid when I read a book like this, otherwise what’s the point? Trust me, this book is scary….especially the first third of it.
I am not sure that Desert Places delivered on its early promise, but that won’t stop me from checking out Crouch’s other books.