ESCAPE WAS NEVER AN OPTION
Charly Highsmith is a survivor. Abandoned by her parents, she spent her teens looking after her autistic brother on the bitter streets of Denver, Colorado, with nothing but a jacket and a backpack.
But things are better now. Charly and Jacob live in a two-bedroom apartment near a mall, and with the passing of their long-lost father, they've inherited a cabin high in the Rocky Mountains. Charly's eager to go there. Relive the good times she had as a child, running through the forest with Jacob and her cousins.
Amanda the Overachiever. Cam the Recluse.
But when they arrive, the cabin isn't empty.
Barry the Millionaire. Kennedy the Social Media Magnet. Randall the Hunter.
Standing by the fireplace, Charly sees that look in her neurodivergent brother's eyes. There are too many people. He's going to run. He's going to burst into the unforgiving snowstorm, sprint around the frozen lake, and hide in the forest like he did when they were young.
So much for reliving the good times.
Randall the Hunter goes to the window. Opens the curtains. The blizzard rages outside. He says no one is leaving. He says nothing will stop the hunt. Nothing will stop the excursion.
Plot/Idea: Paine doesn't shy from shock value, and the story’s twists deliver several jolts that will stun readers. The action is non-stop, but the author weaves character development throughout that adds surprising depth.
Prose: The prose is rock-solid and props up the tense scenes with cliffhanger sentence structure, electrifying the story’s action-heavy later pages. Flashbacks are smooth and natural, doling out the backstory in taut pieces.
Originality: The plot is sensational, and the story’s thrills are organic and terrifying at the same time. Paine’s ending is the perfect fit for this page-turner.
Character/Execution: Paine deftly balances savagery and courage in his characters. Charly is a strong and relatable female lead, while Randall is passionately evil. The built-up tension between Charly and her family from past events culminates in an explosive, jaw-dropping ending
Date Submitted: May 22, 2023
Not for the faint of heart, Paine’s perfectly paced, diabolically clever plot delivers effective twists and turns—including a truly shocking, gasp-worthy surprise at the story’s end. The suspense starts with Charly and Jacob’s arrival. Turns out the cabin’s already in use by a mysterious man named Randall Thorne, who claims that his company owns the property. Randall organizes private excursions for hunters, and has planned one for a smarmy millionaire, Barry Rockwell, who has arrived at the cabin with his social-media influencer girlfriend Kennedy McCallister. Horrifyingly, it soon becomes clear that Rockwell (and author Paine, for that matter) are capable of much darker schemes than Charly and Jacob expect: that these hunting trips aren’t targeting animal prey—they’re after a more dangerous game, and all hell breaks loose when Charly discovers the jolting truth.
Paine does a masterful job of creating characters who evoke strong emotional responses, whether that’s to love them or hate them, all while ramping up the tension and the body count while maintaining plausibility. This devious, horrific tale will stay with lovers of suspense long after the final page is turned.
Takeaway: This dark thriller delivers heart-pounding twists that will grip readers.
Great for fans of: John Saul, Patrick Lestewka’s The Preserve.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A