I’m not a big fan of ice cold wilderness survival stories, probably because I live in the North and am very aware of just how deadly a pristine winter wonderland can be. But used right, this setting can really add an eerie element of suspense to a novel as the surroundings suddenly become not just a place where we are, but an environment we have to fight every minute to survive. Tess Gerritsen uses it perfectly to set the fear factor high for her latest in the Rizzoli and Isles series.
Had Maura Isles not spent the past year in a clandestine affair with Father Daniel Brophy – one that brings her equal amounts of pain and happiness – she would probably not have done anything impetuous. But frustration at the rut she and Daniel are stuck in and her own inability to just move on with her life drives her to make a very impetuous decision while at a medical conference in Wyoming. An old friend from college is there also, with a daughter and two buddies and they are all going on a ski trip once the lectures are over. Why doesn’t Maura join them? Why indeed? Determined to do something not meticulously planned to the last detail, Maura does just that, hopping aboard the SUV for parts unknown with a playmate barely remembered.
When their SUV lands in a drift in the middle of a deep snow fall, Maura begins to remember just why she loves planning so much. The five of them are forced on a tough trek through deep piles of bone chilling wet to find shelter in an abandoned village – and it is very clear that something terrible has happened in the valley that holds the Stephen King-esque town of Kingdom Come. Something that caused the town’s previous residents to abandon meals on their tables and cars in their garages and seemingly vanish into thin air. As the hours go by, Maura can’t help but fear the same is happening to her and her companions. No one knows where they are. There is no cell phone service here. None of the homes have electricity, much less computers or telephones. The continuing blizzard has them completely isolated from the outside world. Every attempt at escape increases their trouble. And then things get really creepy as they find that having company in this strange town is actually more frightening than being alone. Will the watcher at the edge of the woods help their cause? Or will he simply bethe cause of their party vanishing into the night? Is Maura simply going to disappear in this world of endless white?
Not if Jane Rizzolli can help it. Concerned when Daniel’s repeated phone calls to Maura go unanswered, Jane, Daniel and Gabriel head to the Wyoming hotel where the conference was held. As they doggedly pull at every piece of evidence, no matter how intangible, they find themselves being blocked at nearly every turn. Then the unthinkable happens when Maura’s charred remains are found in a mountain ravine.
Anyone experienced with the Rizzoli and Isles books (now a TV series on TNT) knows that Jane is no quitter. She is determined to get to the bottom of exactly what happened to Maura, no matter how terrifying the news may be. She goes over the death scene with a fine toothed comb. She asks questions long after everyone else would say “Case closed”. And as she digs, she finds old secrets that many would rather have stay buried.
The mystery in this story kept me reading through the night. I had guesses as to what was going on but riding the twists and turns Gerritsen took us through was a lot of fun. Some of the things she did were completely unexpected. When you pick this one up, you should prepare to be glued to your seat for the duration, snarling at anyone who dares to interrupt.
A lot of time in mysteries the characters are sacrificed for the suspense, but that didn’t happen here. We’ve had time to get to know Rizzoli and Isles, and their continued characterization was very deftly handled. I especially loved a moment where Jane and Gabriel were dealing with their daughter and you could see how their professional competence just didn’t save them when it came to the terrors of toddlerhood. Watching Maura do some growing, evaluating herself and what brought her to her tension fraught situation was good as well. I was impressed with how the uncharacteristic behavior on Maura’s part was all explained by mixing what we knew of her with what she was going through emotionally. I never had a moment where I was wondering “Where did that come from?” All of our known characters managed to grow while staying true to who they were.
The secondary characters were vividly drawn also. The teenagers especially – they had that special mix of vulnerability and bravado, sulkiness and sweetness, and responsibility with irrationality that seems to be the hallmark of the adolescent. And as seems to be the case in many books I’ve read lately, there is also a really great dog.
What kept it from being a perfect read for me was the entire situation with Kingdom Come and the religious cult that founded it. The entire mystery surrounding that felt a bit forced, which caused the mystery to be wrapped a bit expeditiously for my taste. One of the characters that this story line revolves around was a bit too coincidental to feel natural. But these are really minor quibbles in an absolutely wonderful suspense novel; they in no way take away from the sense of satisfaction one feels when the story is finished. I heartily recommend this chilling thriller.
I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.