Desert Places

Blake Crouch's Desert Places was gripping. I read this story in an afternoon--the perfect way to spend a few hours during the long holiday break.

Crouch wastes no time in plunging the protagonist into a chilling, life-threatening scenario. There's a body on his property, covered in his own blood, and if he doesn't follow instructions, the evidence will be turned over to the Charlotte Police Department.

Crouch's plotting is meticulous. I found the details believable, and I was really impressed with how quickly things devolve for Andy Thomas.

Thomas is a likable, interesting character. His virtues are apparent. He has a fine-tuned sense of right and wrong, and his love for his mother seems genuine. He's a good guy. But he also has a dark side, and his flaws are abundantly apparent as well. He does some pretty deplorable things to stay alive, and Crouch's handling of a fundamental philosophical question (where is the line between the things we do for self preservation and true evil intent?) will probably shock a lot of readers.

Orson Thomas and Luther Kite? Jeez--those guys are sick. After reading this book, it makes me think twice about the true intentions of every interaction I have. I played golf with a stranger yesterday, and I'm glad he didn't drug my Gatorade and hack me to bits in a remote mountain cabin. That was nice. I mean, after reading this book I sure won't drink anything given to me by someone I'm not familiar with, and I see no good reason to stop and help others when their cars break down on the side of those deserted country roads...

It's a sprawling, fast-paced story that I enjoyed from start to finish. I'm very glad to have encountered Crouch's fiction, and I'm looking forward to reading more of his work in the near future.

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