There are two keys to good storytelling: 1) have a good story, 2) don’t give it all away early on. Blake Crouch skillfully adheres to these keys in the first volume of the Wayward Pines series, Pines, clueing in the reader to a dramatic story and sucking them right in, and then slowly giving information away so they can’t help but keep reading, turning those pages, burning to know how it all ends and what the big secret is.
Two secret service agents have gone missing in the small and idyllic town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. Secret Service agent Ethan Burke gets called in to investigate and find out what happened to his fellow agents. He also has a personal stake, since one of the agents is a former lover who he still cares deeply for, even though he’s a happily married man with a son. Burke wakes up to find himself in a hospital bed barely remembering who he is. As the pieces of his past and reason for being in Wayward Pines are slowly put together, he learns that the agent traveling with him was killed in the horrific car accident he was involved in. That’s why he doesn’t remember much.
But Burke is a good agent. He knows not everything is as clear as it seems, and there’s something really weird going on with the supposed perfect town of Wayward Pines. Everyone acts nice and courteous around him, but all a little too nice. And things seem in perfect condition, a little too perfect. Burke knows things just aren’t right, and when he can’t get hold of his ASAC in Seattle or get the sheriff to give him a straight answer about what happened to his wallet and ID, he starts to get scared for the first time. That’s when he grabs a car and tries to get out of town, but as he follows the main road out, he somehow finds himself driving right back into town. Apparently Wayward Pines won’t let him leave.
While the storyline is somewhat familiar, Pines is anything but predictable. Crouch cites the likes of Twin Peaks and The X-Files as inspiration for the series, as he keeps the conflict and adrenaline high. As for the true story of what is going on in Wayward Pines, you’ll have to read to the very end of the book, and you’ll have no clue what’s coming.
Originally written on September 29, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.
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