Originally published: June 12, 2018

AuthorJames A. McLaughlin

AwardsEdgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author

Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Literary fiction

NominationsAnthony Award for Best First Novel

I came across this title as I have many others that have crossed my bookshelf, the free book shelf at my local Starbucks. I frequent that little section, leaving one behind when I pick up something new.

This is the first novel by James McLaughlin, and definitely worth your time. I have been disappointed in many first novels before, but this is a read that is well written with a richly developed story-line. This book would make a great screenplay, it has the right balance of story and action that would appeal to a widely varied audience. It also hints at a bit of the supernatural, leaving one to wonder if he is hallucinating from starvation and psychedelic mushrooms or being drawn into the spell of a one handed skin walker.

The main character, Rice Moore, is complex and believable. He can be best described as a humanitarian and biologist trained in the art of killing, on the run and hiding under an alias and as such trapped between the two worlds of poaching hillbilly bear hunter wannabe bikers and the Mexican drug cartel while working as a caretaker and handyman restoring the lodging on the edge of a family-owned nature preserve deep in the Appalachian Mountains.

Having been raised on a family farm that had a sizable nature preserve on it in the hilly country of Southwest Wisconsin, I can relate to the untouched raw quality of the deepest reaches of that wilderness and the mystery that can be found in the valleys and ravines. Flora and fauna dwell there that are seldom seen outside of those cool, shady locales. When Rice and Sara stray into those forbidden reaches, I feel their wonder as I had as a child.

I was not let down by the ending, either. Instead of being left flat, we are given a worthy ending and closure. Not a fully happy end nor an ironic twist. Each character has his or her place in the close of this tale, right down to Sophie.

If you happen by the shelf at my local Starbucks and see this title still there, pick it up. You will not be disappointed.


The Pilot’s Wife


I acquired a copy of The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve from the Little Free Library at my local Starbucks here in Salt Lake City, Utah.  According to the fly page, it originally came from the Bumpers Library, Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  It is also stamped “Property of the U.S. Army.”  This copy has not been dog-eared but the pages are aged and yellow.  I love the smell of an aging tome.

I searched for information on the author, and it appears that Anita Shreve has passed into the ether.  She published nineteen works of fiction and two non-fiction.  This particular title was chosen to be in the 1999 Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club.

This is a Contemporary Fiction novel that could narrowly cross over into Romance due to having a romantic subtext to the plot, though it is a rather small carryover.  The author gives much more time to the well developed plot than to the romance for which this reviewer is glad.  Romance is a genre that is not one that I naturally gravitate toward.  The closest I usually stray is Contemporary Fiction and Young Adult.

This book explores the question, how well do you truly know those with which you share your life and your home?  A knock on the door in the small hours of the morning can change your world forever.

The main character, Kathryn, suffers loss and a continuing spiral of mysterious circumstances that takes her halfway around the world where everything she ever knew unraveled like an old sweater.  The entire book builds up a tantalizing tale, but the ending left me a flat.  The story was woven like a fine silk web and then abruptly it was over and there was an afterthought of what seemed like one year later.

As I stated, I did enjoy the book, I just wish there was more meat at the end.

Coming next: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks