On the one hand, Eric Red’s White Knuckle takes a slight spin on the ol’ fashioned FBI procedural hunt for a serial killer premise and runs with it unashamedly. The “slight spin” in this instance is to make the serial killer a long-haul truck driver who utilises his largely transient lifestyle to deposit bits and pieces of his victims across the country – unless he opts to keep a few pieces for his backwoods home. Red also opts to incorporate some fairly questionable FBI tactics, as his protagonist, Special Agent Sharon Orsmby is not only allowed to go undercover, but also to enlist the aid of a real trucker (aka NOT a FBI agent) to help sell her cover story as she starts with almost zero idea of who the killer is and where he might be.
Then there’s the other hand, which suggests White Knuckle is fairly paint by the numbers. As soon as you take into account that the guy who wrote the original version of The Hitcher is also the author of this, the main plot beats become more than a tad predictable. I doubt many will be surprised by the directions in which White Knuckle heads, nor the place at which it ultimately ends.
Still, it’s a well-written novel that wastes few scenes in conveying the threat of the mad, serial killing, truck-driver and the obsessiveness of the attractive FBI agent who winds up having quite the personal reason to want him brought to justice or put in the ground. Other than a few sections in which Sharon is learning to drive the big rig she is travelling in, the pace is quite brisk, with Red returning to Mr White Knuckle himself for another abduction and implied murder whenever Sharon’s frustrating search becomes too repetitive.
But the best scenes of the novel are those reserved for when the authorities are closing in on White Knuckle and discover just what his definition of a little taste of home equates to.
In the end White Knuckle might not be classifiable as a “must-read”, but it is a decent, sometimes effective, and readily consumable thriller that will have you double checking your rear view mirror the next time you pass a big rig on a lonely stretch of interstate.
3 Smuggler’s Holds Han Solo Would Be Proud to Own for White Knuckle.
The preceding was based on an eARC provided by Samhain Publishing through Netgalley.