Sitting down on the couch of my family’s Airbnb in Park City, Utah, after a long day of skiing, I flipped to the first page of Taylor Adams’s intense thriller No Exit.
Along with Colleen Hoover, who wrote Verity so impeccably, Adams is one of few authors capable of executing this type of adrenaline-spiking read. Adams flawlessly combines a thrilling plot with insightful character development and authentic dialogue (something the 2022 film based on this book, unfortunately, fails to do).
Set in the mountains of Colorado, the story opens with college student Darby Thorne speeding home through a blinding snowstorm in her beat-up Honda Civic to see her estranged mother, who she has recently been informed is dying. Just as I would, Darby ignores the dangerous weather with one thing on her mind: her mom.
With a near-empty gas tank and a growing inability to maintain control of her car amid the blizzard, Darby is forced to seek refuge at a remote highway rest stop with four complete strangers and zero cell service.
After meeting the people whose company she’ll have to endure until the roads open up, Darby treks back outside in the hopes of finding a cell signal. Desperate to call home for news about her mother, she paces around the parking lot and soon makes a horrifying discovery.
Shivering in the back of one of the stranger’s vans, bound, gagged and locked in a dog crate, is a frail, young girl.
Fear and shock rip through Darby’s body — and mine while reading — but she knows she must think rationally if she has any chance of saving the child’s life and her own.
Darby doesn’t know which of her companions owns the van, and the severity of her situation becomes abundantly clear. Who is a threat? Who can she trust?
Sending chills up my spine, Adams sets the scene exceptionally. The wind whips through Darby’s hair as best- and worst-case scenarios race through her mind.
Here, her character begins to transform rapidly from an insecure, drug-addicted 20-year-old to a cunning, strong young adult.
After promising to come back for the child, Darby ventures back into the rest stop, attempting to look and act as if nothing is wrong. She eyes the four strangers and deducts who she believes to be the perpetrator.
And soon enough, all hell breaks loose.
To avoid spoilers, all I’ll say about the rest of the book is it is full of twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Every time I felt like there might soon be a lull in the gut-wrenching storyline, Adams reeled me back in with another realistic-yet-insane plot twist.
Nearly two hours after starting the book, I unclenched my teeth and finally exhaled as I finished the final page, having read it cover- to- cover without so much as pausing to sip the hot chocolate that sat on the coffee table next to me.
I looked back at what I had read, recognizing how expertly Adams had hooked me into Darby’s world and disconnected me from my own. He exquisitely concocts a story of extreme suspense and proves a limited cast and singular setting can still make for an incredibly interesting and complex tale.
Full of jump scares and non-stop suspense, this book is not for the faint of heart, nor is it a good book to start without enough time to finish it in one sitting. It is, however, fit for thrill-seekers or anyone looking to get out of a reading-slump.
Anytime friends or family ask me for book suggestions, this is always one of my top choices — I even got one of my brothers who doesn’t enjoy reading to fly through this book in just a few days. I rate this 4.5/5 stars.