A family vacation takes an ugly turn when four armed men invade a fishing camp. The heroine of this story is Alison, a quiet, bookish middle-aged mom and schoolteacher. She doesn't think of herself as a hero, and she certainly doesn't see herself as someone who would kill to protect her loved ones. But when she sees her nine-year-old son Jimmy in danger, she discovers more courage and resilience than she imagined she had. She also finds an unexpected ally in her battle.
The villains of this crime thriller are four brothers. The Burne brothers are all sociopaths, raised by their mother from birth to be amoral and brutal, but fiercely loyal to one another. A vicious tribe of psychopaths with mama issues. :-) The brothers' dialogue, as they take the guests at the fishing camp hostage, is strange and darkly funny.
This thriller is suspenseful and at times darkly humorous and poignant. It began as a screenplay which was purchased by filmmaker James Cameron. It clearly shows its roots, especially in the first half of the novel. There is definitely a cinematic quality to the story. The author writes action and suspense very well, and early in the novel, she blends action and quirky, dark humor seamlessly. Later, the suspense tightens, the dark humor fades and the book becomes more intense and serious in tone.
The second half of the novel focuses on life after the fishing camp. Allison continues to feel a heightened sense of danger and believes she needs to be constantly vigilant. She also suffers disturbing flashbacks. These are clearly symptoms of post-traumatic stress, aren't they? Or are they, as Allison believes, a warning of the continued danger lurking on the perimeter of her family's life?
Aside from occasional abrupt shifts in point of view, which I sometimes found distracting, this novel is eloquently written and flows smoothly. The characters are well-drawn enough to be engaging and feel like real people, and in the second half of the novel, we come to know Alison and her family intimately. I appreciated that this novel covers, in an in-depth, compassionate way, terrain not often explored in a thriller: the painful road to recovery after trauma and terror. And this is definitely a page turner, right to the end.
Jimmy Kraft knows things about life that no nine year old should know: evil is alive. He knows this because it physically grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him outside the lodge. Evil is a corporal presence with actual blood and bones and muscles to pull you, cut you, tear off your skin. It is not an imaginary spirit or fallen angel or apparition. It is not an ideology like they teach him in social studies class. It is not an empire, or a religion. It is human. It lives. It breathes. It spoke to him. And while that is terrifying to know, it also makes him feel like he can get it, reach it, hurt it, maybe kill it, and this is where the core of his healing comes from. Evil isn't invincible if it has a shape, a head, and a spine. He likes knowing that if he's strong enough and smart enough, he can defeat it, likes thinking that he can get his hands around the neck of evil and suffocate the life out of it when he grows up. (Page 142)