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Don't Turn Around


Don't Turn Around

Following the explosive release of her debut, FREEFALL, Jessica Barry returns with DON’T TURN AROUND, a timely, chilling thriller about two women fighting not only for their right to live, but for their lives.

At the beginning, we meet Cait Monaghan as she is waiting silently outside of a mansion in her ragged Jeep for a woman to emerge from the stunning house. We do not know why she is there, at first, but it is clear that this is a rescue mission of sorts. Cait is young and amiable, but she has an edge that makes her the right woman for this covert job. With minutes to spare before her cutoff time, a polished, beautiful woman emerges. After taking one last nervous look at her home, she jumps into the vehicle.

The woman is Rebecca McRae, the wife of a Congressman. And before the night is over, she and Cait will drive from Lubbock, Texas, 322 miles to Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a journey that promises to be stealthy, dangerous and life-changing for both ladies. Though Barry takes her time revealing the nature of their secret drive, the suspense is palpable as we watch two wildly different women try to engage with one another and pass the time. Alternating perspectives and timelines, Barry introduces us to them and their pasts as they continue driving through New Mexico, the desert adding a wild and isolated backdrop to their internal turmoils.

"Perfect for fans of THE BOOK OF V. and THE WHISPER NETWORK, DON’T TURN AROUND is a splendid addition to the new list of #MeToo titles and a fantastic thriller as well."

Cait is a young, ambitious bartender who dreams of becoming a journalist. For now, she writes think pieces that are often rejected, for minimal sums, but she is still chasing the high of her last viral article: a #MeToo-era description of her night with an up-and-coming country star that took a violent turn. Although Cait’s name was held off the piece, she cannot help running into people --- usually men --- with something to say to her about it. Readers will cringe as Barry chronicles each and every interaction with a man who says something to the effect of “but she went home with him willingly” or “it was just a night that didn’t make her see stars or sweep her off her feet.” This prompts her to join Sisters of Mercy, an organization that helps women in need. And Rebecca is definitely a woman in need.

As Barry unpacks Rebecca’s life, we meet an equally ambitious but much luckier woman whose marriage to a successful politician has afforded her certain privileges --- and, somehow, even more restraints. Rebecca once lived happily with her husband, Patrick, in California, where she was a teacher who loved discussing education and the rights of students. But Patrick’s ambitions outgrew his social standing there, and he begged her to return to his home in Texas, where he could rise quickly and hopefully make his way to the Senate. Unfortunately for Rebecca, Texas was not quite ready for her polished, gleaming version of a wife, preferring someone a bit more cutesy and silent.

As the women make their way across New Mexico, they finally reach a point where they feel it is safe for a rest stop. But at a quiet diner they cross paths with a leering, scowling man who seems to have a special eye on Rebecca, and soon after, their Jeep is followed, antagonized and practically run off the road by a truck. Before long, they are stranded in the middle of the desert with nothing but their pasts to keep them company --- and the threat of the trucker, whose attack on them somehow felt personal, despite their reassurances to each other that it was probably a teenager on a lark.

This meticulously plotted thriller manages to be just as chilling during the quiet moments as it does the more action-filled ones. Barry is a careful plotter, and although the book feels very current, I do not believe that the conflicts in it will become dated. She unpacks decades of misogyny and discrimination, and the women’s grief, fear and rage are universal in their portrayals.

Those who enjoyed FREEFALL may find DON’T TURN AROUND just a bit too twisty. Though Barry metes out the dread and darkness easily and powerfully, you’ll have to suspend your disbelief when the action scenes kick in. That said, it is the real-world issues that make the book strong and powerful; Barry elevates the genre by writing about such universal themes and highlighting the ways that they can become deeply personal. The twists do not stop with the thrills, either. Both Cait and Rebecca have some rocky pasts that will shock readers and upend their expectations just as quickly as the plot twists will surprise them.

Perfect for fans of THE BOOK OF V. and THE WHISPER NETWORK, DON’T TURN AROUND is a splendid addition to the new list of #MeToo titles and a fantastic thriller as well.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on June 19, 2020

Don't Turn Around
by Jessica Barry

  • Publication Date: March 2, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 006287487X
  • ISBN-13: 9780062874870