A widowed bride-to-be becomes obsessed with revenge for her fiance’s unexplained murder.
Meade’s debut novel depicts a group of childhood friends who reunite in their adulthood under unsavory circumstances. On the morning of his wedding day, Eric Martinez is mauled to death by a ravenous, wolf-like creature while jogging in the forests of bucolic Grand, Oklahoma. The event devastates and angers his fiancee, Sarah, who demands swift answers and becomes emboldened with exacting vengeance for Eric’s death. An outdoor lover, Eric had taught her the rules of the woods and they’d consummated their love at Grand Lake, where he was killed. Sarah heads there and begins days of investigative spadework, discovering large scratches on the trees, and starts to actualize the monster’s cunning and intelligence. Meanwhile, other lake residents become victims to “the beast.” Local Sheriff Christian Morgan is on the scene and is well-versed in the area because he, Eric, and a man named Brandon Hank used to camp at the lake each summer as kids. They shared secret knowledge of a grim legacy, which surfaces as Sarah edges closer to confronting the otherworldly, regenerative creature. Brandon also rematerializes in the narrative as a boat mechanic and befriends Sarah as she continues her dogged sleuthing, which begins to fall into place as she deduces that the killings took place during a full moon. Though she puts her tree-climbing skills to great use, things get much worse before Sarah’s desperation manifests itself and she gets closer to solving the mystery. With an economy of pages, Meade’s tightly written novel moves at a brisk pace and is consistently engrossing, offering a terrifying adversary and a grisly, open-ended conclusion. But there are unfortunate drawbacks. Too often, the author sacrifices character development for plot. Though Sarah is thoroughly fleshed out as a resourceful, robust woman, the other characters are too thinly drawn. There are also some startling tense and timeline shifts, which threaten to jeopardize the impressive work that Meade has done to amp up the book’s climactic storyline.
Readers willing to forgive a few construction flaws should find a tale fortified with passion, fantasy, and a chilling villain, with room for further installments.