Familiar with Gregg Hurwitz’s work on Batman: The Dark Knight (nineteen issues), I dove into his latest thriller, Don’t Look Back, and knocked it out in one sitting. Reading like a movie script, or a Harlan Coben/Linwood Barclay “normal person in an abnormal situation” placed ‘afar,’ the novel follows recently separated Eve Hardaway to southern Mexico, where she goes to clear her head over her husband’s infidelity and to capitalize on their already-paid-for romantic vacation. But what awaits Eve in the jungles is far from Eden, as she finds herself locked in a battle to ever see her son again.
Readers should be aware that this isn’t some goofy, environmentalist drivel with sentient vegetation like The Ruins; there is a very bad man who cowers the locals and has already committed murder lurking in the jungle, along with jaguars, killer ants, and crocodiles. This California nurse finds herself clutching her knowledge of science (physics and chemistry mostly) to stay one step ahead of this killer as he picks off the other participants in her expedition one by one like Ten Little Indians. Sure, this might be categorized in “horror,” but this Lord of the Flies deathmatch has more of a psychological feel.
Eve went to the jungle, but if she’s going to go home, she can’t leave the same.
I’m sure this could be Hurwitz’s use of a name he liked, but calling his main character “Eve” screams of a first woman or, at least, a new creation. The elements of the struggle once the enemy is identified and the fight has begun do include some banter, philosophical arguments, and the usual betrayal by some who should be on her side. There’s even a cautionary tale about those who have become so ruthlessly fanatic about their belief system that they hold no hope for others, and their justifications for damnable behavior becomes absolute.
But more importantly, there’s the internal monologue about fear, about family, about standing up and fighting back against an evil that others have allowed. This is a new birth for Eve Hardaway, from pressed-upon, regret-filled cuckolded wife, to proud, strong, hear-me-roar woman with a future. (In a strange, “this is how my brain works,” I found myself thinking about Demi Moore in G.I. Jane.)
Hurwitz has created an emotionally-charged thriller, grounded in reality, and we believe in Eve Hardaway, even as she comes to believe in herself.