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A Suspenseful Country Noir: The Captive

24 Mar

Typically, I’m not drawn to fast-paced, high-tension adventure stories that pit man against nature  in a survival of the fittest scenario. However, Fiona King Foster’s debut novel The Captive is not only a propulsive wilderness adventure, but a suspenseful and tightly written country noir with considerable plot substance and gritty well-developed characters. I was lured in by the author’s  vivid descriptions of what seemed like an Old West landscape and a family struggling to survive  during a harrowing exploration of loyalty, trauma and resilience. 

Brooke Holland, once involved with her family’s drug war with the rival Cawley clan, has  established a new identity with her husband Milo and her two preteen daughters, who knows nothing of her violent past. They are content operating a small farm in the remote wilderness, miles from any form of established civilization. All seems well until Brooke learns that Stephen Cawley has escaped federal prison and is probably hunting for her with the intent of settling an  old score. When Cawley raids their farm, Brooke subdues him and attempts to transport him on foot to a distant federal outpost, thereby claiming the $5,000 bounty, which could save their  failing farm. Thus, she begins a harrowing trek with her husband and children across a forbidding and dangerous winter landscape. 

Along the treacherous journey, Foster intersperses detailed flashbacks from Brooke’s past, which further propel the current tension and danger and allows the reader to feel compassion for her as she develops a steely determination to save her loved ones. The rough winter poses obstacles and various unsavory and ruthless characters that they meet along the way pose threats to Brooke’s ultimate plan. Even getting separated from her children during a winter blizzard adds suspense to this fast-paced adventure and keeps the adrenaline pumping. 

The suspenseful thriller builds as strained family dynamics are brought to a breaking point and old wounds between rival family drug wars resurface. The ghosts, both real and imagined, from  Brooke’s past still haunt her and she questions her motives and well as her actions and the  consequences they may have. Ultimately, the chilling adventure leads to an explosive climax  involving an intense stand-off, a fire, and a gun-shooting duel, all reminiscent of the wild west.  Granted, this denouement may seem outlandish and larger than life, but it seems to fit the suspenseful buildup and tension and gives the reader a sense of hope for Brooke, her family and  their future. 

Available from Hoboken and other BCCLS libraries.

Written by:
Ethan Galvin
Information and Digital Services Librarian

To Read on a Dark Winter’s Night: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

27 Jan

As winter approaches and the nights grow longer, many of us will be searching for a gripping reading distraction from the coming cold winter nights. I suggest Sarah Moss’ Ghost Wall: a short but impactful novel offering a spine-tingling tale to finish in one go, perhaps late at night next to your fireplace (or a virtual fire on your TV or computer). 

Ghost Wall follows sheltered seventeen-year-old Silvie and her parents as they join an archaeology course for a two week re-enactment of Stone Age life in Northumberland, UK. During the two weeks of the trip the participants forage for roots and berries, use only Stone Age tools and clothing, and navigate the inhospitable bogs and moors of the remote landscape. The suspense builds as the re-enactment grows more frenzied and the dynamic unravels between the archaeology academics and Silvie’s working class family, and in particular her unfulfilled father. Throughout we face the unsettling parallels between the harsh reality of ancient life and the perils of the modern day.

Within the short two week and 130 page time frame, Ghost Wall manages to tackle modern and historic gender roles, class and trauma, and warns against romanticizing the past and building walls. Moss’ writing is transportive, and the natural world is strongly felt in both its beauty and danger. We also strongly feel Silvie’s inner turmoil and fear, and this evocation is sure to take your breath away as the novel draws to a conclusion. I recommend Ghost Wall as a thought-provoking, suspenseful, and dark but satisfying read.

Written by:
Madison Black
Library Assistant, Children’s Department

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