Saturday, August 6, 2016

In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White

From the publisher: In the Barrens, a vast wilderness in northern Canada bordering the Arctic Circle, night consumes every hour of the winter. Humans are scarce; ferocious predators roam freely. Locals say spirits do, too. Rookie cop Tana Larsson doesn’t mind the dark and quiet. Five months pregnant and hoping to escape the mistakes of her past, she takes a post in Twin Rivers, population 320. With her superior out of commission, Tana becomes the sole police officer in 17,500 square miles. She gets a call about the fatal wolf mauling of two students, and the only way to reach the remote scene is to enlist the help of the arrogant, irritatingly handsome Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran, a local pilot with a shady reputation and a past cloaked in shadow. When the scene they uncover suggests violence much more sinister than animal, Tana must trust Crash if she wants to protect the town—and herself—from the evil that lurks in the frozen dark.
In the Barren Ground is a violent but compelling story set in the wilds of northern Canada. A young female cop is called to the scene of two murders. Amidst the carnage of dead people and dead wolves, there are clues that the deaths may not have been due to an animal attack. The more Tana investigates, the more she believes that a serial killer is at work, setting up crime scenes so they appear to be animal attacks. When the killer feels hunted, the killer’s attention turns to Tana.

The author does an excellent job of building and maintaining tension as the threat grows. She also does a good job of ramping up the growing attraction between Tana and Crash, the local bad boy pilot. I liked Tana as the strong but flawed and vulnerable female main character. Crash was a little more stock.

The killer’s motives are not original, but overall the big reveal of the murderer’s identity was handled well. The way the author works a book about a local legend into the plot is also neatly done. I usually don’t like too much graphic violence in the books I read and found the level of detail in this one off-putting, but I was compelled to keep reading by the strength of the narrative.

I enjoyed the Canadian setting. I don’t know whether the portrayals of Native voices and customs are accurate, but I hope so. They definitely added to the story. The small village has its problems, but the people pull together when they need to. On the whole I’d describe In the Barren Ground as a feel good story of terrible violence.

Although In the Barren Ground is from Montlake Romance, the romance is not prominent. A romantic relationship forms but not quickly. This book reads like the first in a series, and I look forward to reading book 2.

I read an advance reader copy of In the Barren Ground. It will be published on August 16 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library. 

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