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by Michael Koryta
Little, Brown, February 2021
384 pages
ISBN: 0316535931

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ten years ago, Nina Morgan died on a very secluded Florida road. Her body was never found, although the blood and other evidence convinced everyone that she had, indeed, died. Her husband took their two kids and made a new life for himself and his smaller family: a nice, suburban, tucked-away family. One calm Sunday morning the kids are sleeping in and Doug decides to surprise them with doughnuts - an unusual treat from a normally health-conscious Dad. The short drive ends in tragedy. Hailey and Nick are, as they know their history, orphans. Hailey makes a phone call to her "Aunt Leah" in Maine. Leah Trenton is a successful guide in the Allagash Wilderness in northern Maine. She had a life, a boyfriend, a business, and a dog. Nobody in Maine has any idea that Nina Morgan ever even existed. So many lives are changed as a result of that call.

Doug's death triggers a series of events. Nina was one of those people unfortunate enough to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, further complicated by the fact that she had a moral compass and used it. The man who wanted her killed all those years ago is still alive and kicking; he is not inclined to ignore Nina's resurrection, no matter what the form. He has minions. Well-paid, very scary, unpleasant minions happy to pick up where the hunt left off in Florida. Nina also has a champion or two on her side and her champions are just as professional as her hunters. Nina/Leah is a very lucky woman with an acquired skill set that makes her harder to hunt than anyone thought she would be. Leah also has two kids to deal with, kids who don't really trust her and aren't even sure they like her; her boyfriend is incredibly trusting and staunch.

Koryta is an excellent writer; knowing this was enough to make one want to read his latest. There are moments of absolutely lyrical prose, prose to go back and re-read before continuing. Unfortunately, these bits of lovely writing slow the pace of a work that demands more sprinting and less jogging. The characters are believable and all too human. Hailey in particular is such a skeptical teen-ager, all vulnerability under bravado - and the spitting image of Nina/Leah. How nobody figures out their relationship is eyebrow-raising. Koryta has been writing this kind of story for a while and knows how to do it. While there is an unexpected twist at the end, it wasn't one more readers will anticipate. Kudos for that.

SPOILER ALERT: There are definitely elements of Kid-Jep in this book; keep reading; Koryta knows better than to anything seriously wrong to a child.

I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, January 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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