Big Driver (from Full Dark, No Stars) – Stephen King

All my lady friends out there know the instinctual uneasiness of being a woman, alone, in an unfamiliar place, and how that uneasiness can compound into fear when you’re approached by a strange man. For many of us, that fear thankfully never comes to fruition. But in Big Driver, our heroine Tess isn’t so lucky…

Tess is a successful author of a series of mystery novels, the type to be favored mostly by women who enjoy reading stories by Mary Higgins Clark and Janet Evanovich. Asked at the last minute to fill a hole in a speaking engagement at a small-town library, she obliges because it fits both of her requirements: an honorarium of at least $1,200, and a short enough distance away that she can drive there with no more than a single overnight stop on the way to or from. The librarian, Ramona Norville, recommends a shortcut to Tess for her way home, and Tess, always a sucker for a shortcut, happily takes Norville’s advice.

As Tess progresses along the shortcut, however, she encounters some boards with nails in the middle of the road that she is unable to avoid, and punctures a tire. Eventually able to wrestle her disabled SUV to the weedy parking lot of an abandoned store, she pulls out her cell phone to call AAA—but naturally, there’s no signal. Soon enough, however, she hears a truck approaching, and the driver offers to change her tire for her. Too late, she notices that in the back of his truck are more boards like the ones she encountered on the road. Almost immediately, he is upon her.

In the aftermath, Tess is bloody, bruised, and thirsty for vengeance. Determined that another woman not befall the fate that she was unlucky enough to suffer, Tess sets to work to learn the identity of her rapist and would-be killer. What she discovers is even worse than she imagined.

Big Driver was a great story with a good but somewhat predictable twist. I enjoyed but didn’t love Tess as the protagonist; I found her creation of voices for her GPS and her cat sort of weird, and I thought there was going to be more to that—like, still she will take good care of the cat and even got a cat litter mat just for him, or something. But no, just some weird lady who talks to herself using her cat’s voice.

The story itself was pretty constantly riveting, which is something I like about short stories—unlike novels, which are long enough to need both rising and falling action, short stories can be, in the words of the great Barney Stinson, ALLLLL RIIIIISE.

I’d say Big Driver was about 95% rise, building steadily to the climax at the end. The ending itself was well-done, conclusive, and satisfying, especially considering the hell you get dragged through to get there. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was the best from Full Dark, No Stars, but the stories were all so different that it’s hard to judge them all by the same scale. At any rate, this one was great.

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