322 miles of road, 6 hours, 2 strangers, 1 killer, too many secrets: Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry

322 miles of road. 6 hours. 2 strangers. 1 killer. Too many secrets.
Midnight. Cait Monaghan and Rebecca McRae are on a desolate road that slices through the New Mexican desert. They’ve never met before tonight. Both have secrets to protect. Both of their lives are in danger.
When a truck pulls up fast behind them, they assume it’s punk teenagers or run-of-the-mill road rage, but it soon becomes clear that whoever is driving the truck is hunting them for sport—and they are out to draw blood.
As the miles unspool and the dangers mount, the pasts they’ve worked so hard to keep buried have come back to haunt them. Someone wants one of them dead. But which one? And given the lives the two women have been leading, that someone could be almost anyone.
If Cait and Rebecca are going to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust one another—and themselves. But trust is a costly business, and they’ve both paid the price before. . . . 


Hi and welcome to my review of Don’t Turn Around!

Don’t Turn Around kicks off with Cait picking up Rebecca in Texas. This could be a very normal situation, entirely innocuous, just one friend picking up another to go out for a drink or whatever. Except that it’s the middle of the night and these women are strangers.

Cait is a writer / bartender volunteering for an organisation called Sisters of Service, a group of women standing up for other women. Rebecca used to be a teacher in San Francisco until she followed her soon-to-be-congressman husband out to the Lone Star State. Now, with her husband out of town, she’s making a run for it. 

A lot can happen to two women on a deserted New Mexican desert road in the wee hours of the night. Especially when the women in question are keeping secrets from one another. Particularly when they’re not quite alone on this deserted road and get caught in a cat and mouse game with a trucker. Who is he and who is he out to get?

Don’t Turn Around is told mainly from the POV of Cait and Rebecca but there are a few other perspectives as well, while still other chapters show the reader glimpses of Cait and Rebecca’s pasts, which makes it a very addictive read. The short chapters and the alternating points of view and timelines spurred me on, I just had to find out more. Consequently, I flew through it.

The thriller aspect of Don’t Turn Around is very engaging. I’ve never been to New Mexico or Texas, but I’ve driven down deserted desert roads in Arizona and Nevada, and reading Don’t Turn Around took me right back. The vibe is exactly right. And once the trucker comes into play, the story takes on a Joy Ride vibe that I thoroughly enjoyed. Cait and Rebecca are well drawn, fully fleshed out characters, starting out as strangers, each with their own agenda, and ending up like a sort of Thelma and Louise.

However, there is another, much more thought-provoking aspect to Don’t Turn Around, one that lifts it up and takes it beyond your regular, entertaining thriller. I think this would make an excellent book club book, cos there’s lots to discuss.

I will admit that Don’t Turn Around took me down a whole other road than I thought it would. At the very start I made assumptions that never came to fruition, but I wasn’t at all sorry to be proven wrong, on the contrary, my assumptions were towards a rather off-the-peg storyline while the actual plot was so much more original, and a whole lot more interesting to boot. 

I know I’m being really vague again, but it was such a treat to have this story suck me in, to discover that it was indeed the suspenseful road trip thriller I was expecting, but a whole lot more than that, and that’s what I want you to experience too, should you decide to pick this one up, which I recommend you do.

Overall, I had a great time with Don’t Turn Around and if you like your thrillers interspersed not only with riveting action scenes but also with well-placed dramatic elements, this is definitely the one for you!

Huge thanks to Vintage and Graeme Williams for the review copy! All opinions are still my own.

Don’t Turn Around is out now in all formats.

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