Book Review

Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry

TWO STRANGERS. DANGEROUS SECRETS. THEIR ONLY CHANCE IS EACH OTHER.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…


Don’t Turn Around is an excellent thriller that manages that difficult task of providing something unique to the reader.  Tense and gripping throughout, I highly recommend this one.

Don’t Turn Around sees Rebecca and Cait on a journey from Lubbock, Texas to Albuquerque in New Mexico.  One aspect that sets it apart from other similar novels is that it mostly takes place in Cait’s jeep, and the chapters count down the miles as their journey progresses.  They are strangers at the outset and why they are travelling together isn’t immediately revealed, although it doesn’t take too great a leap to work it out.  They are reluctant to open up to each other at first, and through flashbacks we see the events that have brought them together.  It’s a journey that will test both women for many reasons, but not least because they are pursued by an unknown assailant, and both women believe themselves to be the target.

Cait is a young woman who works in a bar, but who also volunteers for Sisters of Service – an organisation run by and for women that aims to help those who need it.  It seems an innocuous background – despite the obvious controversary surrounding Sisters of Service – until we learn that she also works as a freelance writer.  She wrote an article – anonymously – about an unpleasant sexual encounter with an up-and-coming musician that began as consensual but developed into something that she was wholly uncomfortable with.  When her name is leaked, she faces abuse and threats as many turn against her.  She is followed, accosted, and widely accused of attention seeking and making false claims, and there are few on her side.  It’s a situation that takes its toll, particularly as it garners national interest.

Rebecca is a quite a different character.  The wife of a politician who is currently running for Senate, she’s clearly uncomfortable with the role that she has been thrust into.  On the surface of it, she has everything going for her, and she and her husband seem to have a good relationship.  There’s a sense that Rebecca is dying on the inside, however, and that she has been expected to put her dreams aside for his without being asked and is now being drawn into the murky world of politics feeling increasingly isolated.  Her reasons for seeking help from Sisters of Service aren’t too difficult to guess at, although it does seem a little puzzling until the truth of Rebecca’s heart-breaking situation is revealed.    

While mostly told from the perspectives of these two women, there are also a small number of chapters showing other points of view.  These add an extra edge to the novel as we see what secondary characters are up to and wonder how they and the activities that they are engaged may come to affect Rebecca and Cait.  It’s a brilliantly plotted tale, and one that comes with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes.  If I there’s one thing I’d have liked to have seen it’s some vindication for Cait after the article she published anonymously and that caused her so much grief. I know that things aren’t always so straight forward, but I felt that having someone else step up and share a similar experience at the hands of the same person would have rounded that element of the plot off nicely. 

Don’t Turn Around is a novel that has a lot to say about many current issues, including the #MeToo movement and the clash between the accuser and the accused, as well as a woman’s right to choose what’s right for her and the stigma that is still attached to such choices.

Don’t Turn Around is an excellent thriller and one that I highly recommend.  Published by Vintage, it’s available now in paperback, eBook, and audio formats.  Huge thanks to Graeme Williams and the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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