The Designated Survivor by JC Gatalin

The Designated Survivor by JC Gatalin
Publisher: Blurb, Inc.
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (98 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

An Unreasonable Hitchhiker.
An Unstable Widower.
An Unpredictable Journey.

Having just escaped from inmate work detail, Tess is on the run and has one goal: get her daughter back. So, hitching a ride to Sarasota, where her daughter is staying, seemed like a good idea at first. That is until she realized her Good Samaritan is clearly suffering from the recent loss of his wife.

As the miles go by and they get closer to Sarasota, she comes to suspect that this crazy widower may in fact be a murderer and they’re transporting a body in the trunk of his car. With the police hot on their trail, Tess isn’t about to let a little murder stand between her and her daughter — no matter how many bodies start piling up.

It isn’t easy to reason with someone who is emotionally unstable. Injecting logic into a completely illogical belief system is even more difficult while you’re on the run and have no time to spare.

The pacing of this novella is fantastic. No sooner was I introduced to Tess and Wesley than their adventure begins in earnest. The tension rapidly escalates from that point on until the very last scene, and I was so invested in what was happening with these characters that I read the whole book in one sitting.

Numerous plot holes and connections between characters that were never fully explained lead to me give this tale a 3 star rating. A few issues with the plot were briefly brought up again later on, but given how much time had been spent on them earlier I would have liked to see more time spent discussing why these explanations are the right ones.

Small details in the descriptive paragraphs pulled me back into the action. This isn’t a typical road trip by any stretch of the imagination, but the author’s descriptions of what it feels like to carpool with someone you don’t know very well or stop at a gas station for a quick snack and stretch were right on point.

I did notice inconsistent characterization of someone who plays an important role in the plot. Their behavior shifts so much from one scene to the next that I briefly wondered if this was another clue about what was really happening with them. It would have been helpful to have confirmation of this if it is truly what the author is intending to do.

There are quite a few personality similarities between Wesley and Tess that aren’t necessarily apparent immediately. Discovering what they are is one of the best parts of reading this story because of how slowly everything is revealed. Despite the short length of this novella, the beginning in particular felt like the introduction to a full length novel. It took the time to set up everything the reader needs to know about Tess and Wesley in order to jump into what happens to them next.

The Designated Survivor kept me hooked until the final sentence. This fast-paced mystery is a good choice for anyone interested in a plot-centered story.


  1. Thank you for the great review!

  2. You’re very welcome.

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