New York Times bestselling author Vicki Pettersson is perhaps best known for her urban fantasy books (the Signs of the Zodiac series and Celestial Blues trilogy), but that was before Swerve, her first out-and-out thriller, arrived this summer. If you missed it in July, grab a copy this month, because Swerve is a raw, dizzying, horror show of a road trip in which Las Vegas physician’s assistant Kristine Rush must fulfill a madman’s scavenger hunt to save her fiancé’s life. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, here are 7 more reasons Swerve is a perfect Halloween read.
1. It redefines the term “page turner.” Who kidnapped Kristine’s dreamy, wealthy, jazz-loving fiancé Daniel at that creepy-as-hell rest stop? Why did they do it? And most importantly, how can Kristine save the man she loves within the impossible time span she has been given? Long after your trick-or-treaters have departed, Swerve will keep you up reading till 4 a.m., gulping back candy and coffee as you brave out one killer ending.
2. It’s chock full of terror. During certain scenes, my eyes darted around the page, as I frantically hoped to land on a less pitiless sentence. Jump scares abound. Read it with all the lights on.
3. The phone call might be coming from inside the house. A central tenet of the book is that the people we ought to be closest to are often the most dangerous. Kristine’s parents have proven time and again they aren’t reliable. So who can Kristine really trust?
4. It’s shockingly fast paced. The almost nonstop action takes place over two days, perfect for experiencing in real time. If you’ve ever binge-watched a season of 24 in 24 hours, this book is for you.
5. There are triple twists. Each time a new facet of the story is revealed, three more lie in wait for you like traps about to spring. Sure, you might figure out one or two of ’em, but odds are Pettersson is still 37 steps ahead of you.
6. The setting will give you the shivers. During the day, the Mojave Desert is barren and deadly, home to scorpions and rattlers, but at night it’s an especially eerie, soulless place. Most of the action takes place on or near Interstate 15, the blisteringly unforgiving freeway that connects Las Vegas to Lake Arrowhead. As Pettersson describes it early on, “The sun is a heat lamp with no off switch, the blacktop road a cast-iron griddle, and any living thing caught between the two is just meat set to singe on high.”
7. The main character is no run-of-the mill “final girl.” Kristine was raised in the “arid, barren desert,” and her teenage years were miserable, involving an underground mine and an ominous figure known only as the Coal Man. But the fact that she has survived a living nightmare once (or twice…) before means Kristine has reserves of strength that not many heroes or heroines do. In short, she and her tormentor may be evenly matched.