Blake Crouch, author of The Wayward Pines Series, talks about his favorite thrillers set in remote locations and small towns:
I’m definitely more of a thriller than a mystery guy. I love huge, high-concept ideas, supported by a breathless pace. There is something uniquely terrifying and claustrophobic about taking a huge story and placing it in a small town, in the middle of the forest, or a post-apocalyptic wasteland. When you can’t just call for help and have the entire might of the NYC police force rush to your aid, the stakes somehow feel higher, and hope is suddenly in short supply. Here’s my top 6 list for these kinds of thrillers that have set the bar for everything else I read:
Testament – David Morrell
If you think James Dickey’s Deliverance is the ultimate man against nature/survivalist thriller, check out Morrell’s second novel about a family on the run in the mountains of Wyoming. Unrelenting and not afraid to delve into the darkest of places.
Vertical Run – Joseph Garber
What if you went to work one day and everyone you saw tried to kill you? I’m such a sucker for setups like that and this thriller pays it off in spades. Also, the book’s framing device, which takes place in the remote, High Sierra, is some of my favorite writing of all time.
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
Will this high-concept thriller about dinosaurs brought to life in our time ever be topped? I’m not holding my breath. Intelligent, scary, lightning-paced, and all in support of the coolest idea ever put to page. This is the thriller all other thrillers want to be when they grow up.
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
So unbelievably sad and so gorgeously written. Much of it is just a father and son wandering through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, covered in ash, but when McCarthy turns up the juice, your heart won’t be able to stand the tension.
Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane
A paranoid, WTF-is-happening thriller if ever there was one, and the reveal at the end, so rare in novels like this, will leave your jaw on the floor.
The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum
I hesitate to even put this novel on the list. You shouldn’t read it. It’s dark, dark, dark, upsetting, and did I mention dark? But something about this story of a young girl who’s being kept in a basement in an otherwise quintessential American neighborhood is the most compelling thing I’ve read in a decade.