Pines (Wayward Pines #1), by Blake Crouch

Four stars (of five)

This being my first novel-length introduction to Crouch, I was not sure what to expect, nor am I still. Ethan Burke awakens on the side of a river with no recollection of how he made it there. Burke does know he’s a Secret Service agent and was sent to Wayward Pines, Idaho to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents. He also remembers being in a horrific car accident, but anything more remains a complete blur. Nothing seems to add up and Wayward Pines appears to be a form of Twilight Zone with Burke its newest inhabitant. Unable to reach his wife in Seattle, Burke begins trying to piece everything together, running into roadblocks along the way. As Burke peels back the layers of this bucolic town, he soon discovers that there is no way out, its perimeter surrounded by electric fencing. The town deals with those who try to leave in a harsh manner, leaving Burke to wonder how he’ll ever make it to his family again, but that’s the least of his worries. A social commentary as much as a thriller, Crouch introduces the reader to a curious town in which everything has its place, even if it seems jilted and without order.

As I read this novel, all I could think of was a twisted storyline that Stephen King might create and force his group of characters to meander through, at a pace not solely their own. Crouch has a wonderful way of layering the thrills, drama, and character development that leaves the reader highly intrigued and wanting more with each passing chapter. How can a dreamy town in the middle of nowhere become such a house of horrors and what can be the ultimate meaning. Crouch addresses that in a soapbox sermon manner, pushing beliefs while spinning the story to the cusp of science fiction means the Stepfords. An interesting concept that is sure to expand as the second novel in the trilogy seeks to open new pathways. I am piqued to see what Crouch has in store for the reader next.

Kudos, Mr. Crouch. I am intrigued, which is a big step for me. Keep writing and impressing your audiences, but try to stay away from browbeating everyone in the first novel.