Wayward (Wayward Pines #2), by Blake Crouch

Four stars (of five)

Welcome to Wayward Pines! Come see the lonely bus stop, the nightly variety hour, and the collection of picket-fenced homes. The town sounds ideal and one would expect to see pies cooling on every window ledge. However, pulling back a bit and the reader notices the electric fences surround the town’s perimeter, snipers at the ready, and millions of aberrations looming outside the town. It’s all the creation of David Pilcher, who sought to bring this Utopia to the middle of nowhere, but at a significant cost; total acceptance of his control. Sheriff Ethan Burke is new to the helm, but knows most of the town’s secrets, having stumbled upon them as the reader will recollect in PINES. When he comes upon a murdered woman while out late one night, questions begin to surface. He’s directed to investigate a group of misfits, who seek to rock the tranquil town with questions about their former lives. Sheriff Burke needs not only to penetrate this group, but also wrestle with his own struggles living in Wayward. Can he overcome his own burning questions and toe the line, or will he soon join this group and turn on his neighbours? Crouch explores new and exciting angles of his ‘model train town’ and injects the biblical fight for control between good and evil. A powerful middle novel to keep the trilogy alive for the avid reader.

When I began the novel, I was not sure how Crouch could move the story forward. He offered the crux of the town in the latter chapters of Pines and made his social commentary perfectly clear. However, a new layer of commentary emerges surrounding power struggles, while a fast-paced murder storyline emerges from the narrative. Ethan Burke remains a high-calibre character whose integration is anything but complete, even as he puts on the ultimate facade to fool his higher-ups. By telling more of the Wayward Pines backstory and how the world was reduced to a few hundred people, Crouch whets the appetite of the avid reader to learn just a little more before closing their mind on the subject. The threads left dangling in the final chapters will make for an explosive end to the series, which Crouch has planted masterfully.

Kudos, Mr. Crouch. I remain intrigued and highly energised for the final instalment. Do bring your ‘A-game’ to tie it all off.