I first came across Canadian author Chevy Stevens via her debut novel, Still Missing, which I adored.
I’ve read most of her subsequent books and she writes consistently complex thrillers, often centring around unhealthy relationships and splintered families, and featuring power imbalances between genders.
by Chevy Stevens
Published by St Martin's Press
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
The Cold Creek Highway stretches close to five hundred miles through British Columbia’s rugged wilderness to the west coast. Isolated and vast, it has become a prime hunting ground for predators.
For decades, young women traveling the road have gone missing. Motorists and hitchhikers, those passing through or living in one of the small towns scattered along the region, have fallen prey time and again. And no killer or abductor who has stalked the highway has ever been brought to justice.
Hailey McBride calls Cold Creek home. Her father taught her to respect nature, how to live and survive off the land, and to never travel the highway alone. Now he’s gone, leaving her a teenage orphan in the care of her aunt whose police officer husband uses his badge as a means to bully and control Hailey.
Overwhelmed by grief and forbidden to work, socialize, or date, Hailey vanishes into the mountainous terrain, hoping everyone will believe she’s left town. Rumors spread that she was taken by the highway killer—who’s claimed another victim over the summer.
One year later, Beth Chevalier arrives in Cold Creek, where her sister Amber lived—and where she was murdered. Estranged from her parents and seeking closure, Beth takes a waitressing job at the local diner, just as Amber did, desperate to understand what happened to her and why. But Beth’s search for answers puts a target on her back—and threatens to reveal the truth behind Hailey’s disappearance…
I struggled with the early part of this book as it seemed far too obvious that Hailey’s step uncle and local cop Vaughn is not only a bully, but kinda twisted and /or evil. It then felt like a waiting game… for him to go too far and Hailey’s fate to be sealed, or our worst suspicions confirmed. So there’s a sense of menace from the get-go and SOOO obviously so I felt annoyed. Vaughn’s dastardliness felt belaboured and I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue – in that I suspected what was coming and wasn’t sure I could be bothered going through the process of discovery.
And then… Hailey takes matters into her own hands and the book takes a turn I did not see coming.
Stevens takes several detours (ahem, Dark Roads) before a mid-novel climax that keeps us guessing for some time. It’s at that point we’re introduced to a new narrator, Beth and again Stevens is easily able to draw us into her story, the life she’s living that she didn’t expect (or) want to be.
Stevens mixes in some subtle unease as she ekes parts out. Even when we’re given cause for relief I wondered if there was to be some trickery. Writers have to be increasingly clever nowadays. They make us believe people are alive when they’re not and fool us into thinking dire things when the opposite is the case.
I was certainly surprised by the ‘whodunnit’ here but realised there was something more and that something disappointed me a little as I’d allowed my expectations to escalate. So though we got closure and justice I struggled with a sense of anticlimax as I’d allowed my imagination to run free.
Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens will be published by St Martin’s Press (Macmillan) on 3 August 2021.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.