You can’t talk about MacDonald’s 1955 standalone novel without commenting on the story structure. It’s not a classic novel. It’s the anatomy of a massive multi-car crash on the interstate.
At its best is the first half which offers chapters to each of the carloads of people. MacDonald excels at giving the reader a deep understanding of his characters, where they cans from, and what decisions led them to that fateful day on the highway. You get the married couple who were once madly in love and seem to have lost their mojo and are out to recreate their honeymoon and rekindle the passion. You get the small angry man, his wife, and two daughters and their determination for a family outing. You get the young secretary from San Francisco who had a torrid affair with her executive boss until he ends things suddenly and she heads back home. You get the pair of crooks in a stolen car with a drunken floozy they picked up in a bar and continued on their journey with. MacDonald delves deep into each set of characters.
The second half is a play by play enactment of the accident and who ended up where and why. The story continues with the ambulances and the rescue crew and the tow yards. Next of kin are contacted and the insurance adjusters descend like vultures on the scene. This half of the book though isn’t quite as compelling as the first half.