I think that it would be impossible to be overenthusiastic about Blake Crouch’s new thriller. Those of you who have partaken of his previous works --- LOCKED DOORS, DESERT PLACES and ABANDON --- don’t really need any prompting to pick up SNOWBOUND, do you? For those of you who haven’t sat up for an entire night turning page after page in the grip of obsessive compulsion reading Crouch‘s work and wondering how he does what he does, I’m going to come knock on your door and sit on your doorstep until you read at least the first few pages of his latest. Once you do so, you will finish the book. And my job will be done.
My problem here is that I don’t want to give anything away about SNOWBOUND, as I want you to walk into it, step by step, knowing practically nothing about it, so that you will be mentally buffeted hither and yon as this story unfolds. I want you to feel as Crouch’s editor probably did when he first unboxed the manuscript, started reading and, upon finishing several hours later, wondered not only where the day went but also where he was. Yes, SNOWBOUND is that good. It’s also terrifying, imaginative and darkly literary. It is one of those books that fledgling authors read and that either inspires them to try to do better or, more likely, concentrate on that day job, since they’re never going to top --- or even come close to topping --- what they just read.
If I’m going to get you to pick up SNOWBOUND, however, I probably need to tell you at least a little about it. Will Innis is a defense attorney in southern Arizona. He and his psychologist wife Rachael have an 11-year-old daughter named Devlin who is the love of their lives. Rachael goes missing on her way home from the office one night, and the evidence points to a forced abduction. Even as Will and Devlin, accompanied by a host of family and friends, stand vigil for her, local law enforcement suspects foul play, with Will being the “foul” in the equation. Acquainted with the criminal justice system, Will does the stupidest possible thing, albeit for a very good reason: he runs, taking Devlin with him.
Five years later, living in a new place, with new lives and new identities, Will and Devlin are ensconced in a quiet if not entirely restful existence. Their lives change once again when they are approached out of nowhere by Kalyn Sharp, an enigmatic woman who knows exactly who they are. Kalyn is aware that Will is innocent of any wrongdoing in Rachael’s disappearance, primarily because Kalyn’s sister vanished in the same manner. Even better, Kalyn has a very good idea as to who the kidnapper was. Forming an uneasy alliance, Will, Kalyn and Devlin begin to backtrack the abduction of their respective loved ones, a journey of thousands of miles fraught with danger, twists, turns and, yes, surprises from start to finish. And, at trail’s end, they will have their answers. For better and worse.
I just re-read my summary, and I will confess to you that my description does not even come close to doing this novel justice. I will refer you back to my first two paragraphs. You have never read anything like SNOWBOUND, a sweet nightmare of a book that is unforgettable on several different levels. To put it another way, it’s the Highway 61 Revisited of thriller novels. Some of you know what a compliment that is. If you don’t, let me end by telling you this: I was screaming at one point while reading, and a few pages later I had tears in my eyes. Readers pour through shelves of books looking for writing like that. Look no further. I can’t give you a greater recommendation than that.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011