The Needles Highway by John Stewart Wynne


The Needles Highway by John Stewart Wynne
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (19 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Mojave Desert. The heat of the noonday sun.

A lonely stretch of highway.

A screenwriter enjoys a nostalgic visit to his childhood home of Needles, California.

But now it’s time for him to leave that simple life in the desert and drive back home to L.A. and the lure of Hollywood. The highway isn’t crowded—he hopes to make it home in time to join his wife for dinner. But apparently fate has a different idea.

He suddenly finds himself being chased by a skeleton in a pickup truck who holds a terrifying secret that will change his life forever…

It’s difficult to ignore a skeleton driving a pickup truck. It’s even tougher to outrun him.

Imagine the most shocking thing you’ve encountered while travelling down a lonely stretch of highway. Multiple that by a thousand and you’ll begin to understand what kind of day Jed Ackerberry is experiencing. When Jed stops to help a woman having car troubles we see glimpses of a kind and generous (if occasionally socially awkward) man. This is the sort of trustworthy guy everyone hopes to meet when you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere.

The troubles Jed meets on his journey only made me like him more. His first experience with the truck driving skeleton was chilling. Long after I finished this book the fear of glancing over at the next lane and catching a glimpse of something so sinister still rattled around in my thoughts.

Unfortunately the twist in this tale was far too easy to unravel. As compelling as some of the scenes were I figured out what was happening almost immediately. Certain characters gave away clues so early on that logical explanations are quickly narrowed down to a handful of obvious choices. I would have preferred it if more time was needed to tease answers out of Jed’s experiences. This could have been accomplished by moving a key conversation several pages closer to the end or by condensing some of the action.

I was surprised by the final scene, though. A few short paragraphs tie up all of the loose ends, leave room for a sequel and provides additional backstory that I found particularly disturbing. Normally I am not a fan of using this device in this genre but in this case it heightened my sympathy for Jed’s predicament and made me root for him even more.

Even with some minor bumps in the road The Needles Highway is at heart a deliciously frightening tale. I highly recommend it for anyone who has been temporarily lulled into complacency while on a long trip. After all, one never knows who or what might be driving down the road next to you!

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