The Excursion

A gripping suspense thriller with heart

Fiction - Thriller - Psychological
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 09/10/2022
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

T.O. Paine is a suspense novelist whose authentic characters triumph over extreme situations in challenging, true-to-life settings. He enjoys delving into the emotional consequences of his character’s choices and taking his readers along for the ride. Though his novels are contemporary, things always get out of control. Cults are real, anger is a disorder, and everyone loses when a friendly competition becomes an obsession.

T.O. holds a master’s degree in information systems, and when he is not writing, you can find him running or cycling through the mountains of Colorado, USA. He has run over thirty marathons, ridden over twenty 100-mile cycling events, and completed an IRONMAN.

T.O. resides with his wife, two children, and a Boston terrier who stares at himself in the mirror, questioning his existence.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

When news of their deadbeat dad is delivered by their dying mother who had left them to their own devices for years, Charly and her brother Jacob have an unexpected change in their financial circumstances. In The Excursion by T.O. Paine, Charly is handed the paperwork to a trust fund and the keys to a Colorado cabin where memories of the good outweigh a lifetime of the bad. Charly invites their two cousins, Amanda and Cam, who used to join Charly, Jacob, and their parents while they stayed at the cabin in their youth. Amanda is wildly manipulative and Cam has sadistic tendencies, perpetrating cruelties that terrified the neurodivergent Jacob and continue to haunt him as an adult. On arrival, there is confusion about the ownership of the cabin. A man named Randall, who says his company is the owner, is there to entertain a wealthy client named Barry on a mysterious excursion worse than any of the horrors that Charly and Jacob have experienced even in the worst of times.

The Excursion is a deliciously grim thriller with all the best components necessary to hook a reader and keep them almost obsessively engaged. From a literary standpoint, T.O. Paine is pitch-perfect with prose that reveals only enough to satiate readers on a need-to-know basis, employing a slow unpeeling of what's to come with skilled pacing and organic dialogue. I loved the variants incorporated into Charly's experiences through her point of view in the present, alongside the excursion organizer, Randall. This contrasts with her view of her past and a game her father once organized at the cabin. The nuanced theme of how we cannot escape our past and that life has a way of coming full circle whispers through a plot that is thick with tension. Even the perpetually drunk Kennedy and the paying hunter Barry remind Charly of her parents. The hunts by Zaroff Excursions are only nominally different from the years Charly was forced to survive, reinforced when Randall himself says to Kennedy, “It's hostile outside.” There are some excellent surprises, including a MacGyver transformation from the least expected in a cast of fully-fleshed-out characters. This is a fantastic read that, despite its colossal size, can be devoured in a single weekend.

Cecelia Hopkins

The Excursion by T.O. Paine is packed with action and suspense. Charly is surprised by the news her late father had left her a trust fund and a cabin. Meanwhile, Randall Thorne is promoting exclusive hunting experiences and is under pressure to make a sale. Barry Rockwell buys a package and Randall must secure suitable prey. Influenced by childhood memories, Charly arranges to visit the cabin with her autistic brother Jacob and organizes a reunion with their cousins Cam and Amanda. It is snowing heavily when they arrive, only to find that the cabin has been claimed for Randall’s deadly purpose. A game of cat and mouse commences, as Randall attempts to disguise the nature of his “hunt”. When Randall suspects that Charly has noticed something amiss, he aims to dispose of the witnesses. Charly desperately attempts to escape and save her relatives as well. All will be revealed when Randall’s sinister supervisor arrives.

The Excursion by T.O. Paine generated an atmosphere of anxiety that kept me turning pages feverishly. I liked the fact the plot was filled with fright and was a bit subversive as well. I also liked the inclusion of a neurodivergent brother as a valued significant other for the main character. The chases and fight scenes were well written and I felt as though I was in danger along with the main characters. I was gratified to find certain suspicions I had formed were fulfilled but also enjoyed waiting till near the end to have my guesses confirmed. The book has an underlying premise that aroused a sense of genuine horror.

Alma Boucher

Charly’s father left her and her brother Jacob to work away from home. Jonathan promised them that he would come and see them as often as he could. They never saw him again. Joan, Charly’s mother, was in the hospice and asked Charly to come and see her. Joan gave Charly a key to the cabin from Charly’s childhood. Joan told Charly Jonathan had passed away and left her and Jacob a trust fund. Charly decided to invite her cousins to meet her and Jacob at the cabin. In the meantime, Randal was recruiting hunters for an excursion hosted by Zaroff Enterprises and Barry Rockwell signs up for the hunt. The excursion must be kept secret, and only one person can hunt at a time. Charly and Randall are surprised to meet each other at the cabin. The sparks start flying in The Excursion by T.O. Paine.

The Excursion by T.O. Paine has an interesting and complicated plot. The story had my attention from the beginning and I could not turn the pages quickly enough to see what was going to happen next. It is fast-paced with more than enough action. Charly's and Randall's stories alternate in each chapter. Charly’s story went back to her childhood, and I could see where she was coming from. The characters were strong and skillfully handled. They were authentic, and I could relate to them. My favorite character is Charly. She did everything she could to survive. When given a chance she rented an apartment and looked after Jacob. The Excursion is excellently written, and the suspense made it very powerful. The end blew my mind. I did not see that coming. This book exceeded my expectations.