The Last Woman in the Forest, by Diane Les Becquets

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Diane Les Becquets, and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Diane Les Becquets presents readers with an interesting thriller that straddles two timelines to potentially track a serial killer’s path. Marian Engström loves working with tracking dogs and has been employed on a number of sites to locate movement patters of a number of animals. While on a site in Northern Alberta, Marian meets Tate, one of the coordinators. Their connection is strong and they grow closer at a rapid pace. During one of their post-coital chats, Tate reveals that he’s seen a dead body while on the job, one of the victims of the Stillwater Killer, a serial murderer who has been targeting women across the western United States. In a flash forward segment, Marian approaches one of the long-time investigators of the Stillwater Killer, Nick Shepard, to reveal this information. In a constant flip-flop between the present day and months ago, the reader discovers the ongoing closeness that Marian and Tate find, as well as the current investigations that Nick uncovers as he pokes around this Tate revelation. What follows is a series of coincidences that neither Marian and Nick can ignore, especially as they relate to Tate’s whereabouts during four concentrated killings over the past few years. When Nick delivers some of his chilling news, Marian can only wonder if she really knew the man she came to love and what her role might have been in the larger web Tate wove for himself. A chilling tale that keeps the reader wondering until the pieces all begin to fit together. A decent read, recommended to those who like criminal thrillers with a nature flavouring.

Having never read Diane Les Becquets before, I was not sure what I might expect, though the dustcover blurb did pull me in quickly. The premise of the story worked for me and I felt a strong connection to the characters throughout. Marian proves to be an interesting protagonist, whose passion for dogs and nature seeps from her in many ways. The reader is able to learn much about her through the actions she takes in camp and the conversations she has with others. That she has struggled of late is not lost on the attentive reader, though there is much to be said for her passion to do right by those around her, human and canine alike. Others within the story offer interesting flavours, particularly Tate and Nick, pushing the story in interesting directions to keep the reader wondering what is going on. I can only surmise that Les Becquets was trying to offer up an eerie sentiment with her writing, which succeeded as she spun a wonderful tale for all to discover. While the story was strong, it seemed somewhat disordered. I understand the concept of flashbacks and revelations, but there seemed a jilted ‘ping-pong’ effect, bouncing the reader through trying to keep information straight. I found it somewhat confusing to continue the flip-flop, especially as the revelations could have been revealed in ‘real time’ and then a few small remembrances used to refresh the reader’s memory. Les Becquets does offer something interesting when speaking of the stories related to the murder victims, drawn loosely on some of her own experiences. While the preface was the tale of one such young woman, there are summary chapters to give the reader a better understanding of how the other women met their demise and what choices they might have made. Quite effective on the writer’s part and it keeps the reader connected throughout. A decent piece whose only downfall is what I felt to be a lack of smoothness in its narrative delivery based on chronology.

Kudos, Madam Les Becquets, for your great piece that really gets to the core of a chilling tale. I would like to try some more of your work to see if it is as intriguing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: