First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Carrie Stuart Parks, and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
I am always eager when I see Carrie Stuart Parks has written another novel, having found myself fully enthralled with her Gwen Marcey series a number of years ago. While Parks has moved into writing standalone thrillers, she can still pack a punch and offers up some great storytelling in this piece. When a woman who is saddled with much PTSD from a horrific work event arrives in rural Idaho, all she wants is some rest and well-deserved relaxation. Darby Graham could not have known that this ranch had so many issues and someone causing massive amount of uproar. As things begin to happen, Darby is thrust into the middle of trying to solve them and determine if there is a killer targeting the ranch or someone on its grounds specially. Gritty and mysterious, Parks does well to lure the reader in with this story.
When she arrives in Idaho, all Darby Graham wants is some time to recharge her batteries and enjoy the wilderness. However, things begin with a bang (or more literally, a shake) and develop from there. In an area close to Yellowstone National Park, there are countless mini earthquakes that cause quite a stir. Graham encounters this, as well as two potential canine companions to join her as she makes her way up to Mule Shoe. Graham slowly tries to get herself acclimated, though she carries much baggage of her own.
Having arrived at the ranch from Clan Firinn, a program for law enforcement officers who have suffered severe PTSD, Graham hopes to put all her worries behind her. However, that is not always the case, as small things occur that trigger flashbacks and horrible fugue states. When these occurrences begin to pile up, Graham has no choice but to work with the locals to try uncovering what’s been going on.
A forensic linguist by training, Graham finds clues in language and how it is presented. She is able to use some notes from the past sent to ward others away and finds herself able to piece together a very loose profile. That may not help her now, as people are dying and destruction is rampant, though it does not deter Graham from trying her best.
Riddled with memories of the past that haunt her, Darby Graham will have to put all that behind her if she is to help find a killer before she becomes a victim herself. Much if riding on this, the least of which a chance to slay her own demons once and for all. A well-paced story that adds action and suspense throughout, proving that Parks has not lost her way with words.
I struggle after reading a series and the author turns to standalone novels. When I get into the groove of things, I can only see myself wanting to continue on the journey of a protagonist I know well, with dangling threads and new plot ideas formulated in the closing chapters of a book. However, Carrie Stuart Parks turned to writing novels that float on their own, equally as impactful to the attentive reader. These are still filled with the element of mystery and suspense, as well as utilising some unique forensic research, which is usually able to extinguish my longing for a series continuation.
Darby Graham does well in her role as protagonist, offering the reader a fair bit with which it work. Having suffered a great deal and still haunted with vast amounts of PTSD, Graham has tried to right herself and find a new path. Graham’s attempted escape to rural Idaho may not be the peace and quiet she needs, but it does showcase some of her wonderful forensic skills and keeps the reader guessing about how she will overcome it all. There is great growth and backstory construction in the piece, even if it is meant to go no further than the end of this novel.
Those Parks matches up with her protagonist also play key roles in keeping the story moving. While many flavour a particular aspect of the narrative, some drop clues throughout to help add depth to the story and provide insights into where things are going for the overall reading experience. Parks has a way of developing the rural authority figure effectively, which is not lost in this novel. Some of the characters help propel Darby Graham to a new level, while others are strictly there to impede her personal and professional progress throughout.
Things began somewhat slowly for me in this read. I needed some time to find myself interested in what was going on. Parks uses a slow reveal to really captivate the reader’s attention, but when it is found, the narrative picks up and finds its momentum. The various perspectives offered throughout provide the reader with an exciting tale, with decent backstory and mysterious twists. The plot advances in due time and keeps the reader guessing until all is revealed by the end. Short chapters push things along, though the information in them is essential, forcing the reader to play close attention. One of Parks’ great assets in her writing is presenting a typical criminal case through the lens of a less-known forensic profession. As with her Gwen Marcey series, the reader learns much through the eyes of Darby Graham, whose life as a forensic linguist offers some insights that may have been missed otherwise. While not my favourite piece by Carries Stuart Parks, I enjoyed it and would encourage readers to look into her other work, particularly that of the aforementioned Gwen Marcey.
Kudos, Madam Parks, on another solid piece of writing. You never cease to impress me with the new forensic angles presented in your writing.
Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons