Abandon by Blake Crouch

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Minor Spoilers for review purposes follow

In short: Abandon by Blake Crouch is a good thriller, with a decent enough mystery aspect. Over-all, if that’s the sort of book you want to read then it’s for you — but don’t expect the supernatural, as the Amazon categorization is a misdirection for the sake of the mystery aspect, and don’t expect anything departing from the genres in a major way.

The Good

Pacing — I’ve come to appreciate books that don’t stop, and this one doesn’t. Despite switching between the “present day” and 1893, the action builds and builds, with each chapter ending leaving you wanting to read on.

Story-telling — Blake Crouch does what he aims to here: he paints the world of Abandon, past and present, and builds the tense reality for the visitors in the present day: the snow, the storm coming, and the men after the treasure are all constructed perfectly. You can understand and feel the dangers that are posed by the environment around them: Crouch did his research on the issues facing people stuck up high in a snowy wasteland.

The Characters — other than a few generic “meh” characters, most of the cast are compelling and interesting. The people in 1893 are deep, complex characters with legitimate concerns and motivations. Everyone — the bad-guys, the black widow under arrest, the townspeople — has a reason for their behavior. Greed is the motivation for bad guys in both past and present, and greed is what costs the lives of the characters that don’t make it.

In fact, the people from 1893 are more interesting than the people from the present even if some of them are more paint-by-numbers: the criminal turned sheriff, the wild-eyed religious nut, the hooker with the heart of… well, coal, in this case.

The Bad

Misdirection — the misdirection, present through-out the book, leaves the impression something supernatural is going to come. Which, while I understand the reasoning for it, I feel that the categorization and marketing of the book — given what Crouch is famous for — is a little misleading. This is a minor gripe.

Paint By Numbers — I like formulas, so this isn’t a big bad for me. But the book does become somewhat predictable. Even if you don’t know what the twist is going to be the signs of the upcoming twist coming are reliable. “Things have gone reasonably well for these characters for a few minutes, they’re making progress, something is going to hit them in the face in a page or two.” I don’t mind that at all — but some might.

The Ugly

A scene toward the end of the book describes the ultimate fate of the mute piano player from the town in 1893. That scene was disturbing.