I tend to love stories where people are trapped together, cut off from the rest of the world with a villain in their midst so when this novel about stranded travelers came to my attention, I had to read it.
No Exit is a super-creepy, edgy, heart-in-your-throat thrill ride that follows our main character Darby Thorne who while on her way to Utah to see her dying mother, gets caught in a savage blizzard in the Colorado mountains. No longer able to navigate the roads, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a rest area with four strangers.
Concerned that her family may wonder where she is, she steps outside, hoping to find a cell signal in order to call them but there’s no reception. As she passes by one of the vehicles in the parking lot, she looks in the window and to her horror, sees a little girl locked in a dog crate.
Even though Darby realizes one of the four people inside is the kidnapper, she has no choice but to act and is determined to somehow save the girl — and she has to do so without tipping off the kidnapper and getting everyone else killed in the process. But first, she’ll need to figure out who the kidnapper is — and who can be trusted enough to ask for help in freeing the girl.
The question is: who is the villain? And who can and cannot be trusted?
As it turns out, there’s a hell of a lot more to her fellow passengers then meets the eye and Darby soon finds out that navigating those uncertain waters are a lot more dangerous than she could have imagined. She quickly learns that nothing is as it seems and everyone in the room has secrets, which are two of my favorite tropes. Also: Trust. No. One.
This story takes off with a bang and doesn’t let up until the final jaw-dropping pages. To say it’s fast-paced is an understatement as our protagonist finds herself in one harrowing and deadly situation after another. I really loved the speed and pacing of the story, as it hurtles along at breakneck speed, never giving you the opportunity even to catch your breath. I found myself so engrossed in the plot that I couldn’t put it down, and I ended up reading hours past my bedtime because I had to know what happened.
It’s also chock full of surprising and shocking twists and turns, most of which I didn’t see coming (the first one was a doozy!). There was definitely some brilliant storytelling here as author continuously ratcheted up the tension page after page and we couldn’t help but wonder whether Darby is going to be the hero of the story or the victim; this is to say, will she outsmart the dirtbag or will they outsmart her?
What surprised me was how violent, bloody, and gory the novel was, something that caught me totally off guard. Let’s just say that I’ll never look at a nail gun again without shuddering and thinking about this story. That being said, this may not be a novel for those who dislike violence and/or are particularly squeamish, as some might find it exceptionally gruesome. There are lots of potentially triggering situations in this book, so be warned if you’re a more sensitive reader.
It’s a dark, edgy, intense and claustrophobic game of cat and mouse in an absolutely chilling setting. I’ve always found rest stops a tad creepy, and this book certainly reinforced that feeling.
In addition, No Exit was unsettling, scary, nerve-racking, anxiety-inducing, suspenseful and clever, and though parts of it were graphic and horrifying, I found the story mesmerizing and compelling. It’s a disturbing, desperate novel which I found to be quite different from most thrillers, and I found the inventive storyline refreshing. And the psychotic villain was utterly evil and bone-chilling.
I also really liked Darby’s character. She’s delightfully complex, often impulsive but mostly incredibly brave, tenacious and noble, who had to make impossible decisions and put her life on the line to save a little girl — even when the odds were not in her favor.
I enjoyed seeing her character evolve throughout the story as she went from being a self-centered person to someone who would risk their life for a stranger.
All in all, No Exit is a highly suspenseful nail-biting psychological thriller that leaves you with one simple question: what would you do?”