A woman loses her first love only to realize he might have been a psychopath all along in Les Becquets’ (Breaking Wild, 2016, etc.) latest.
Marian Engström is a free spirit whose passion for animals has led her all over the west. When she arrives in northern Alberta, Canada, to join a conservation study, she meets Tate, who slowly works his way into her heart. But several months later, Tate is mauled by a bear, and Marian is overwhelmed by grief. After Tate’s death, though, Marian began to feel "something wasn't right with [him]," and she reaches out to Nick Shepard, a retired forensic profiler, to ask whether he thinks Tate could have been a serial killer responsible for the murders of at least four young women. She’s been remembering certain behaviors, certain details about their relationship that now seem like red flags. Nick had worked the original case and has always had a deep connection to the victims, all innocent do-gooders like Marian. As they investigate, Marian begins to feel like someone is watching her. Or maybe it’s just paranoia….Les Becquets is a beautiful writer of place; every scene is imbued with sensory description but not with panoramic, postcardlike awe. Instead she brings to life the smells and sounds of these remote forests and deserts, and the settings help us understand these reserved characters through their love for the world around them. The level of detail, however, can sometimes make the writing seem clinical and emotionless: “The map included a geological information system with radio telemetry data of existing caribou that had been collared, and habitat model layers. The habitat model layers estimated where there might be lichen-rich resources, an important staple in the caribou’s diet.” Ultimately, the characters, and the novel, suffer from their failure to express their emotions. While the writing may very well symbolize the characters’ repression and isolation, it also makes for a fairly dry mystery.
A slow-burn novel that fails to catch fire.